Thursday, 30 January 2014

Nauru: Aussies out!

Nguồn tin:

THE South Pacific microstate of Nauru (with a population of 9,400 spread over 21 square kilometres or eight square miles) has deported its Australian resident magistrate and barred its Australian chief justice from re-entering the country. In protest, the solicitor-general—also Australian—has resigned. Before these events came the dismissal of the Australian parliamentary counsel, wife of an opposition MP, though now banned from Nauru. It leaves the country bereft of a functioning judiciary, and also has wider ramifications. Nauru is the site of a detention centre that forms a key component in Australia’s “Pacific solution” aimed at stopping boats landing asylum-seekers on Australian shores. It houses over 900 refugees, mainly Afghans, Sri Lankans, Iranians and Iraqis. Riots at the centre last July triggered the sacking of the island’s Australian police chief.

The latest troubles began when the resident magistrate, Peter Law, stopped the government from deporting several foreigners, one of whom, Rod Henshaw, had been a media adviser to the former government. After Baron Divavesi Waqa’s government assumed office last June, Mr Henshaw’s contract was terminated. Instead of leaving, he acquired a business visa and opened a hotel bar. The home minister, Charmaine Scotty, claims this was symptomatic of a “system of cronyism” operated by Australian expatriates in league with the opposition. At issue is whether the government had the right to deport Mr Henshaw and two other foreigners. The government says it passed legislation in December enabling it to do so. The judges disagreed.

The government responded on January 19th by bundling Mr Law onto an aeroplane, defying a stay order issued by the chief justice, Geoffrey Eames, from his home in Melbourne. Mr Eames then had his entry visa cancelled. He cannot be formally dismissed except by a two-thirds majority in parliament and only with good cause. The opposition says the Waqa administration may declare a state of emergency, a common tool, to rid itself of the judge. Or it may simply fall, as 11 governments have done over the past dozen years. A reconfigured government might dispense with the justice minister, David Adeang, a power-broker who earnestly wants to settle scores with the opposition and its friends. On January 28th the government amended the immigration act so as to allow Mr Henshaw to be deported the next day.

Australia’s immigration minister, Scott Morrison, denies a conspiracy hatched in Canberra, the Australian capital, to remove legal oversight from its detention centre. The episode, he says, is “very much about internal Nauruan politics”. In tiny states like Nauru, parliamentary politics can become deeply personalised. But it all makes the Nauru end of Australia’s “Pacific solution” less palatable under international law, and leaves refugee rights poorly protected.

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