Stranded Pacific lawmaker flees to New Zealand

A Nauru opposition figure dramatically escaped from the Pacific nation this week after being trapped there for a year.

AFP| Updated: Jul 13, 2016, 11:35 AM IST

Wellington: A Nauru opposition figure who dramatically escaped from the Pacific nation this week after being trapped there for a year said Wednesday the rule of law had broken down and its citizens were living in fear.

Wellington-based Roland Kun travelled to Nauru last year for a four-day visit but ended up stranded for 12 months after the island`s government revoked his passport and accused him of inciting a riot.

Kun, who at the time was an opposition lawmaker, was never charged but his requests for a new passport were denied, stopping him from travelling.

He only managed to flee this week after New Zealand secretly issued him one of its own passports, reuniting with his wife and three children in his adopted homeland on Monday.

"What the government did to us did not make any sense, it wasn`t necessary and it should not have happened," Kun told Radio New Zealand.

Kun`s lawyer Claudia Geiringer described the cloak-and-dagger measures adopted to get Kun out of the tiny nation of about 10,000 people, which is best known as a site for an Australian-run asylum-seeker detention camp.

First, the New Zealand government, which had raised concerns about Kun`s plight, used a special ministerial discretion to issue him a passport.

After he received it, plans were made for him to leave for New Zealand via Australia, with Kun departing on Sunday because Nauru would be in a lull after national elections the previous day.

Even so, he spotted some government ministers at the airport and hung around in the car park, desperately hoping he would not be recognised.

"Sunday was a very nail-biting day for us all as we waited for information to come through," Geiringer told AFP in a written statement.

"We heard from an eyewitness that he was on the plane, but we couldn`t know for sure until it landed in Brisbane and he emerged into the arrivals area."

Kun said allegations he incited violence at a protest outside Nauru`s parliament last year were "total nonsense" and accused the government of acting with impunity.

"It was clear to me during my time on Nauru, when I wasn`t allowed to leave the island, that there`s a lot of fear," he said.

"The government has what they call blacklist... it`s names of people who disagree with government."

New Zealand suspended NZ$1.2 million ($870,000) in foreign aid to Nauru`s justice system last year, citing concerns about civil rights.

International monitors have criticised laws carrying heavy jail terms for political protesters and the suspension of opposition MPs.

However the government tightened its grip on power in the election and President Baron Waqa was appointed for a second term on Wednesday with a parliamentary majority of 16-2.

Situated about 2,800 kilometres (1,750 miles) northeast of Australia, Nauru is the smallest island country in the world, with an area of just 21 square kilometres (eight square miles).

Once a major phosphate producer, the Australian camp is now its major employer and source of income.