Former Nauru Presidents plea for international observers
The two former leaders of Nauru say international observers are vitally needed on the island after the government made changes to the Electoral Act that they say threaten the country's democracy.
The Pacific Islands Forum says it would only send an election observer team to Nauru if the island's government requested it.
This comes after a call from two former Nauru presidents for observers to be sent immediately in the wake of controversial changes to voting legislation.
Dominic Godfrey reports.
The new law includes a 20-fold increase in candidate registration fees from US$75 to US$1500 dollars and a 15-fold leap, from US$7 dollars to US$113 dollars for moving constituencies. Another change earlier this year requires any public servant to resign three months prior to the election if they wish to run as a candidate.
Marcus Stephen and Sprent Dabwido want the Forum and the Commonwealth to send monitors now because the changes are undermining the democratic process. Mr Dabwido says observers need to see the things the government is doing.
SPRENT DABWIDO: "We are asking that the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Pacific Islands Forum bring their observers earlier and also bring somebody who's more aware on how elections are handled and run, and experienced enough to know when there's something being illegally done or not."
Mathew Batsiua, who with Mr Dabwido is one of five opposition MPs who have been suspended from Parliament since May 2014, says the changes are aimed at silencing voices of dissent.
MATHEW BATSIUA: "It is a direct attack on new candidates, women candidates, new candidates who are trying to challenge this government because they are not satisfied with the way that they are running the country the way they are managing the economy and just the corrupt behaviour that is happening left right and center."
The Pacific Island Forum secretary-general, Dame Meg Taylor, says the agency takes any allegations of electoral impropriety very seriously. She says the Forum, under the principles of the Biketawa Declaration, is always ready to facilitate electoral missions for any of our member countries. But she says the Forum would need an invitation from the Nauru government before it could send in a team of suitably qualified regional electoral experts.
The director of Massey University's Pasifika Centre, Malakai Koloamatangi, says the request from two senior Nauru politicians should be taken very seriously.
MALAKAI KOLOAMATANGI: "I know though that these two organisations are somewhat reluctant sometimes to get involved in what they see as national politics, but I think in this case, given the problems Nauru has gone through, I think it's advisable that Commonwealth Secretariat, ComSec, and PIFs abide by these two obviously senior people's request."
TNC Pacific's principal Tess Newton Cain, says Dame Meg Taylor's reference to regional co-ordination in times of crisis is pleasing.
TESS NEWTON CAIN: "I'm very pleased to see that she's referenced Nauru's accession to the Biketawa Declaration and what that means for principals of good governance. And I'm also pleased to see that she's acknowleged that she's taken note of the issues that the members of the current opposition in Nauru have read in their letter."
The Commonwealth Secretariat says it has received no invitation to send observers yet but at the request of the Nauru government, it will send a technical team to the island soon. New Zealand's foreign minister, Murray McCully, says such a move would enhance Nauru's credibility with the international community.
MURRAY MCCULLY: "We take the view that when election observers go, it should be because they've been invited by the host country because the host country sees a benefit in demonstrating the credibility of the election process and ultimately the election result. If we were invited, as we always do, we would consider finding some appropriate people."
Last year New Zealand suspended aid to the Nauru judicial sector over concerns at the actions of the government. But these points will remain moot as long as Nauru's main benefactor, Australia, takes a hands off approach to the political developments on the island. We have sought comment from the Nauru government and its spokespeople on the issues raised but there has been no response.
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