Revoking Nauru pensioners' benefits 'abuse of power'
A Nauru opposition MP says the revoking of pensioners' benefits for allegedly participating in anti-government protests in June is a blantant abuse of power.
A Nauru opposition MP says the revoking of pensioners' benefits for allegedly participating in anti-government protests in June is a blatant abuse of power.
Mathew Batsiua says he knows of two pensioners who received letters from the finance minister David Adeang this week, advising them they would no longer receive welfare payments or Nauru airline benefits.
The letter says Cabinet made a decision last week that people involved in protests, riots and other criminal activities would stop receiving government privileges.
David Adeang could not be reached for comment.
Mr Batsiua says there could be more pensioners affected.
MATHEW BATSIUA: Well I know of two at the moment. I have been sent copies of their letters. They are complaining and seeking advice and help from us, so we are trying to help them the best way we can. They are very angry, they are frustrated, they think that it's unfair. But what I need to point out too is the two who have received letters from the government have not been charged at all with any activities related to the protests on June 16. So again the government seems to be infringing on people's rights where people are supposedly innocent until proven guilty. But we have seen this government since the protest infringe on people's rights whereby they have treated them as being guilty before being found innocent.
MARY BAINES: So will the pensioners get an opportunity to tell their side of the story or appeal this decision by Cabinet?
MATHEW BATSIUA: We are looking at all those options. We will seek legal advice and see what their legal options are. But they are very angry and they are quite right to be angry.
MARY BAINES: Do we know if these pensioners were actually even involved in the protest?
MATHEW BATSIUA: Look I don't know. The government is claiming that they were. All I know is that the two pensioners, as of today, three months after the protest on June 16 are not facing any charges. So what they are basing this on, I am not sure. But I think the main question here is the continual abuse of power by the government. I mean it's not only wrong but it's unethnical to withhold the pension permits of senior citizens just because they don't support the government. We see this carrot and sticks approach by minister Adeang and his government. They have been using this carrot and sticks approach for a while now, where they take a stick to those who are critical to government actions to make sure that they keep them in line, while rewarding those who are obedient with free travel and whatever. This carrot and sticks approach my minister Adeang and his government is standard operation for them, but we say it is an abuse of power. They can't treat public funds as their own funds. We can't just give it out free will to those who tow the line and withhold entitlements to those they feel do not support them.
MARY BAINES: Do you think there are more people affected than these two pensioners you have heard about?
MATHEW BATSIUA: Possibly. But like what I said, the government taking actions against those who are against them is wrong. It's a democracy, people are allowed to support you or not, and those who don't support you, you have to try to convince them with policies and actions that improve their lives. You don't punish them, we don't want to live in a Nauru that punishes people because they disagree with you.
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