International parliamentarians to look at Nauru crisis
An international grouping of parliaments fears democracy is in jeopardy in Nauru and offers to mediate.
An organisation representing parliaments around the world, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, says it plans to look carefully into the situation in Nauru's parliament.
Five opposition MPs remain suspended from Nauru's 19-member legislature after the government accused them of spreading lies in the foreign media, leaving just two opposition MPs in the House.
Nauru does not belong to the 166 member IPU and its Secretary-General, Martin Chungong is hoping it will join the six members from the Pacific.
He told Sally Round democracy is in jeopardy and the IPU can help.
MARTIN CHUNGONG: What we say is that we have criteria by which we can assess the level of democracy in a parliament and one of the criteria is to ensure that there is a strong and effective opposition and where that is not the case then we speak out strongly against practices by the ruling party or the government to suppress the opposition. That is one thing we do but we also encourage the parliament to put in place inclusive processes. And the IPU does offer its mediation, its facilitating role, as an honest broker, to sit with those parliaments to see how they can make parliamentary processes more inclusive and more tolerant towards the opposition. So we have in a way a carrot and stick policy where we speak out strongly against attempts to stop democracy by suppressing the rights of the opposition but also we encourage parliaments to kind of establish inclusive decision-making, looking at issues that relate to reconciliation and the smooth functioning of parliament that is inclusive.
SALLY ROUND: Have you been doing this in the case of Nauru?
MC: No we haven't , we haven't but now that you have called my attention to this we are going to look into this very seriously and we want to be very proactive so we will be reaching out, in spite of the fact that Nauru is not a member of the IPU we are going to be reaching out to them to see how we can be helpful. We don't come in as a gendarme or policeman we come in to offer our services in a neutral and impartial manner.
SR: So no approaches have been made as yet?
MC: No not yet, not yet. In fact my colleagues and I are going to look into this very carefully. I know the speaker mentioned it to me this morning that there seems to be some problems in Nauru and over lunch a number of members of the New Zealand parliament also mentioned it to me. So we are going to look at it and we are saying that democracy is under siege everywhere in the world and this is an instance where one of the key tenets of democracy is under jeopardy and so we have to look into that.
SR: We also have the case of Vanuatu where you have it seems a lot of instability of governments, MPs crossing the floor, no confidence votes. What is your advice, what can your union do to help and is this just a symptom of a developing parliament?
MC: We think yes it's a question of parliaments going through a transition from lack of democracy or very little democracy to full blown democracy and there are teething problems that many parliaments typically face and what we are saying is that it is through dialogue, meaningful dialogue, between all parties that we can achieve a modus operandi that is satisfactory to all. So when we do have those problems in many countries we encourage the various parties to sit together and we do encounter a lot of success. I would go back to parliaments such as the one in Fiji. Before in the mid nineties we worked across the political divide between the opposition and the government to put in place a framework for cooperation by the various political parties in the country and it worked for a while before the famous coup took place. But we are glad that Fiji is back into the democratic fold and as I say it is through dialogue and mediation that we can achieve this. It's not by using force and we want to make sure that whatever happens is within the parliamentary structures. When you come to the issue of floor crossing, of course my views are that you shouldn't, when a member of parliament has been elected by their constituents, it is on the basis of a platform that they the constituents are giving him or her a mandate to defend their interests in parliament. If they are going to move to another platform then the people have a way of deciding and they can recall that parliamentarian during elections and we don't think the solution is throwing the member out of parliament because he is not representing the interests of the party on which they were elected. So it's an issue that we are looking at very closely and we think that at the end of the day it's the people who have to decide.
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