Nauru MP dragged out of Parliament for comments to foreign media

Political turmoil has struck Nauru, a tiny Pacific nation that hosts offshore processing for Australia. Photo: Alana RosenbaumPolice have marched into Nauru’s Parliament, forcibly dragging out an opposition MP accused of making critical comments to foreign media.

In what appears a deliberate attempt to stifle dissent on the tiny Pacific nation, the Nauru government has suspended three opposition MPs from Parliament over unspecified complaints in international media.

The government has already censored local media and refused to allow interviews with opposition leaders to be broadcast.

Kieran Keke, one of the suspended MPs, told Fairfax Media a scuffle broke out on Wednesday inside Parliament after 20 police entered the chamber and several other members sought to protect him.

Dr Keke had refused to leave the Parliament after declaring his suspension this week illegal, and said the police had been put in an incredibly difficult position.

Two former presidents of Nauru, Sprent Diabwo and Marcus Stephen, had been involved in the scuffle.

“It was a totally unnecessary and appalling situation,’’ Dr Keke said.

The other two suspended MPs – Mathew Batsiua and Roland Kun – had been overseas when the government used its thin majority on Tuesday to push through the suspension.

The latest political turmoil on Nauru, host to an Australian-run immigration detention centre, comes after a tense legal standoff in January when the government deported the island’s chief magistrate.

Nauru also refused the United Nations permission in April to inspect the detention centres.

A spokeswoman for Australia’s Foreign Affairs department said: “The Australian government believes politicians should be free to speak to both the domestic and international media. However, this is a domestic matter for the Nauru Parliament.”

The three opposition MPs have each spoken to Fairfax Media and other outlets in recent months – as have members of the Nauru government.

Comment was sought from the government about the suspension, which appears to be indefinite.

Dr Keke said on Wednesday he had been told it would only be lifted if he apologised both in the Parliament and on foreign media outlets for criticising the government.

“I’m not sure how we do that if we are suspended,” he said.

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