New Zealand To Raise Concerns With Nauru: Reiterates Priorities Of UN Council Presidency

By @diplomatist10 on
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (L) and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key speak during a joint news conference on Abbott's first official two-day visit, in Auckland
IN PHOTO: Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (L) and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key speak during a joint news conference on Abbott's first official two-day visit, in Auckland February 28, 2015. Reuters/David Rowland

As part of its focus on addressing the problems of small countries, New Zealand has turned attention to Nauru’s problems, during the month long presidency of the United Nations Security Council. Nauru is a small Pacific island country. There had been disturbing reports of political curbs and oppression in that tiny country.

Prime Minister John Key has mentioned that the situation in Nauru is worrying and pledged to raise the "serious" concerns with the government there about the alleged clampdown on basic freedoms.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully too put Nauru on priority at a gathering of top Pacific Islands Forum diplomats in Sydney, recently. “New Zealand is taking the reports coming out of Nauru very seriously and this meeting is an opportunity to pass on our concerns," he said in a statement.

New Zealand is one of the major aid donors to Nauru's justice sector and McCully promised that he would take up the matter with the island's President Baron Waqa. Naiuru is a tiny nation of 10,000 residents. It has introduced laws carrying heavy jail terms for political protesters and restricted access to Internet sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Both United Nations and the U.S. State Department have called up Nauru to restore liberty saying they are essential for a democracy.

Serious Concern

But Nauru government is rejecting criticism calling it as “misinformed campaign” as similar laws are already there in many other countries. It said Internet curbs were enforced for restricting pornography. In the recent past, many opposition politicians were arrested for protesting outside parliament, which the government called as “violent riot” and slapped criminal charges on them. The opposition is hamstrung as five of its seven members were suspended from parliament in 2014 for criticising the government in international media.

The New Zealand Law Society said Nauru situation is "fast becoming intolerable. This cannot continue. Nauru has to restore human rights," said Law Society convenor Austin Forbes. Nauru is 2,800 kilometres northeast of Australia and is the smallest island country in the world, with an area of just 21 square kilometres. It was a major phosphate producer and home to Australian-run asylum-seeker detention camp, which is its major income now. Since 2013 Australia has been sending all asylum-seekers, arriving by boat into detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. It has denied resettlement in Australia despite outcry from rights groups.

UN Presidency

Meanwhile, Prime Minister John Key reiterated that New Zealand will use its UN Security Council presidency in July to highlight the core issues it raised during the campaign for Security Council seat. "A particular focus will be the peace and security challenges confronting Small Island Developing States, including our Pacific neighbours," the PM said. Foreign Minister Murray McCully will be in the chair in New York.

(For feedback/comments, contact the writer at k.kumar@ibtimes.com.au)

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