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Nauru opposition claims campaign interference

Wednesday 6 July 2016 | Published in Regional

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NAURU – The Nauru MP and former president, Sprent Dabwido, says he suspects the government has intervened to stop local media from running the opposition’s campaign advertising material.

Nauru’s general election is to take place this Saturday but the oppostion MPs say they have had little opportunity to get their messages across to the people.

Dabwido has even accused the government of manipulating the island’s police commissioner to prevent the opposition from holding an election campaign rally.

Dabwido told Radio New Zealand’s Dateline Pacific he hopes the presence of election observers from the Commonwealth and the Pacific Forum, will enable the opposition to campaign freely with what little time remains.

“On Thursday we applied for a permit to gather peacefully so we can do some presentations on our visions and our plans. A political rally.

“The police said that is not a problem and we will just go and talk to our boss and get his approval.

“But when it got to the police commissioner it was just a blatant no.

“In my own personal belief I think this, I think the police commissioner, who is related to the minister for justice, just went to him and said these people trying to do this thing and I think the political gods of Nauru said no and that was it.”

PACIFIC BEAT: In terms of your political advertising you have been trying to run adverts?

“Basically the opposition has two advertisements that are ready to go because, you know, we keep seeing the past months the government using the local TV and radio for advertising them, promoting what they have been doing and what they plan to do.

“So we have made two advertisements to put up their – one is ready to go right now and one is almost ready.

“They said, ‘that is all right we will get back to you after we talk to higher authorities’ and now we are still waiting.

“And now there is only what, four more days, five more days till the election. So we are not too hopeful on that now.

“So it is unfair treatment of potential candidates here between those who support government and those who don’t support government.”

PACIFIC BEAT: So how then are you going to campaign if you are unable to rally or run advertising?

“Wel, we tried visiting houses door to door, we have put up banners along the road. We have issued brochures to houses – that is probably as much as we can do.

“At the same time, unfortunately our brochures cannot be too critical of the government otherwise we end up facing more charges from the government for that.

“It is illegal if seen as political hatred – they put that in the criminal code somewhere.

“One of our biggest issues was trying to tell the whole of Nauru, you know, these are the failures of the government in the past three years – we are scared to do that. Just in case they take charges on us and it might jeopardise our coming elections.

“So we just have to rely on letting people know our plans and our visions rather than criticise the government for their failures.”

PACIFIC BEAT: Are you hopeful that the presence of the observers may enable you to campaign properly?

“We are very hopeful, with the observers when they are here we will raise our complaints to them.

“And we are hoping that they could advise us you know, ‘yes you can go and do your campaign in this manner we don’t see any problem with that’.

“We are looking for them to reassure us that we won’t face any risk from somewhere else when they are here to see a fair election.

“And hopefully they can do something about it. If not, at least they can start addressing it with the government straight away.

“Right now we cannot even talk to the government ourselves. So we are hopeful the observers can do more than just observe.”

- Pacific Beat