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Wednesday 16 March 2016 | Published in Regional


YAREN – A former secretary of justice for Nauru says the current justice minister, David Adeang, considers himself all powerful and that his government is above the law.

David Lambourne was speaking as five suspended opposition MPs continue their struggle to get the legal representation they want.

Three of them face charges following a protest outside parliament in June last year, a protest that came 13 months after they had been controversially suspended from parliament.

Two others, Kieren Keke and Roland Kun, had their passports seized in June last year but no charges have been laid, despite a string of threats from Adeang.

The MPs, who need the help of overseas based lawyers because of a lack of legal representation on the island, have not been able to secure visas for them.

Journalists are also shut out by a punitive visa application fee and last week the government ruled that any visitors from Australia and New Zealand would need a local guarantor on the island to qualify for a visa.

Lambourne, who had been set to represent Kun, said he government of Nauru fought his application for admission “tooth and nail” in an attempt to prevent him from representing a number of the suspended MPs.

“Then after the supreme court dismissed their objections and admitted me to practice, the Minister For Justice then turned around and announced that he would not be giving me a visa in any event.

Lambourne said the problem with the current government in Nauru is that they in many respects believe themselves to be above the law. “

“And so the consequence of that is that the government of Nauru and in particular the current Minister For Justice David Adeang rule by fear. He has now got his department to such a place that they jump and do everything that they are told to do.

“I have known Minister Adeang for a long time, when he first started behaving this way which was sort of 2008, 2009 when he was in opposition – it became clear that he was not the man he had professed to be as a young visionary in Nauru.

“He had been one of the early people pushing to change the way Nauruan politics work and had been regarded very highly along with a number of the people who are now very vehemently opposed to him.

“But somewhere along the way he ran off the rails and now I can’t describe it any other way than that he considers himself all-powerful.”

He said the real challenge for the suspended Mps is that there are two groups.

“There is one group who participated in a demonstration last year and who are now facing criminal charges as a result of expressing what should be their democratic right to speak out.

“There has been several delays in getting that matter to court and some of that has been about who they will be allowed to have represent them.

“Then there is another group of MPs who are suspended but did not participate in the demonstration in June but are still being punished nonetheless.
“And so you have a member of parliament like Roland Kun who had nothing to do with the demonstration back in June but has still been put in a situation where his passport was cancelled.

“His wife and family won’t be able to visit him in Nauru and he can’t visit them in New Zealand. So the lengths to which the current Nauruan government will go in order to punish their political opponents is gobsmacking really.”

He said there is only so much foreign governments can do to intervene in Nauru’s issue.

“I am pleased that the New Zealand government took the steps they did but there is only so much that they can do. The current economy of Nauru is underwritten by the Australian government and the Nauruan government serves a very useful purpose for Australia in providing a location for a processing centre for Asylum seekers.

“The money that that generates for the Nauruan economy is significant, the usefulness of Nauru to Australia is significant.

“Australia cannot afford to upset that balance . The real regional power when it comes to Nauru is Australia and if Australia is not willing to speak out in the face of egregious breaches of the rule of law or serious breaches of basic democratic principle then Nauru really knows that they have got nothing to fear.”

He agrees that a handful of Nauruans have got Canberra over a barrel.

“Yes, absolutely. And so they know that they are not going to be subjected to criticism, they know that their is no chance that there will be consequences – whether it be through the withdrawal of development assistance in the way that New Zealand has objected – then the Nauruan government knows that they can act with impunity when it comes to the relationship with Australia.”

- Dateline Pacific