25 Apr 2019

Nauru rejects former president's criticism of refugee detention centres

12:44 pm on 25 April 2019

Nauru's government has rejected criticism of its refugee detention centres by a former Nauru president as "pure fiction".

The Nibok refugee settlement, Nauru.

The Nibok refugee settlement, Nauru. Photo: Pool / NZ Herald / Jason Oxenham

Sprent Dabwido is seeking asylum in Australia and has been told by doctors he has just days to live because of throat cancer.

In recent weeks he has given interviews with Australian media in which he has called for an end to offshore processing of refugees in Nauru.

But in a statement on Wednesday, Nauru's government said Mr Dabwido was leaving "a legacy of dissension and dishonesty".

The statement said refugees and asylum seekers in Nauru were treated better than any other processing centre in the world.

"We support the freedom of speech by any Nauruan citizen, but equally we will firmly correct misinformation. The story on Australian television as told by Mr Dabwido was pure fiction."

Mr Dabwido told SBS last month that he regretted the 2012 deal struck with then Australian prime minister Julia Gillard to re-open the detention centres.

He said the original contract for the detention centres seemed to be a good policy, but it had been changed over the years and is no longer what he signed.

"It is time to end processing on Nauru," Mr Dabwido said.

"It is hurting Nauru as much as it is hurting Australia, it has turned my island upside down."

Nauru's statement on Wednesday added that Mr Dabwido's government, which led Nauru from 2011 to 2013, mismanaged the country's finances.

Former Nauru president Sprent Dabwido

Former Nauru president Sprent Dabwido Photo: supplied

It said once in opposition Mr Dabwido organised riots against the parliament.

Mr Dabwido is a member of the so-called Nauru 19, a group charged, and then effectively acquitted, of offences relating to a protest against the government outside the Nauru parliament in June 2015.

The Nauru government is appealing last year's Supreme Court decision which granted the group a permanent stay and a hearing is currently underway in the new Nauru Court of Appeal.

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