n journalists keep asking questions, trying to find out the truth of life on the island. Photo: Angela Wylie Asylum seekers during recreational time at Nauru detention centre. Photo: Angela Wylie
杭州桑拿

Nauru President Baron Waqa Photo: Michelle Smith

We don’t need to answer your questions: Nauru

Dear government of Nauru,

Thanks for your note on Wednesday. I wanted to reply by sending a friend request on Facebook, but, well, you banned it in your country.

That’s one sure way to stifle any domestic dissent. But your other strongarm tactics have been inspired. Suspending the opposition from Parliament without pay – genius! Revoking visas and deporting the judiciary – bravo!

And then stripping the pensions from citizens who dared to participate in a protest this year at the Parliament, which you called a riot, even though they have not been convicted of a crime. Way to exert control.

Oh, but there I go again, just another n journalist displaying what you dismiss as “great arrogance and an air of racial superiority”. Pesky questions and all.

But here’s the thing. I was on Nauru in 2013, and I still have my blue “Nauru sport fishing” hat. It was just a few months before you slapped an $8000 price tag on a visa application for a media visit (that’s for the application, remember, not necessarily an approved travel document).

I went to report on the aftermath of an undisputed riot, one that levelled the detention “camp” – President Baron Waqa’s word when I interviewed him beforehand.

That riot was started by the asylum seekers that you – and your predecessors, remember, those opposition MPs? – had agreed to host on behalf of .

And I reported the distress of the Nauru people, their fear at events potentially spiralling out of control and what might happen to their kids. And I heard the resentment of people who believed the asylum seekers “had it all good and they burnt it down”.

But I was also there when you began censoring the local television, to stop the opposition from questioning your deal with a desperate Labor government in to resettle people found to be refugees. Questions like are they to live in Nauru permanently, or not quite? Will these refugees be given passports to travel off the island and return with supplies, as many local like to do?

Then followed your refusal to allow United Nations officials to visit, the selective lock-out of foreign media (no ABC, no al-Jazeera), the shrill allegations against the opposition MPs before they have been convicted of any crimes, and complaints they have spoken critically of you to people like me in the international media.

And how about those rude Kiwis, huh? Scrapping aid to you over concerns about meddling with the judiciary. Outrageous.

Yes, there are all the claims, and counter-claims, about the treatment of refugees. If journalists were allowed on the island, you say, “refugees who are now living peacefully would – under the direction of n based advocates – start to protest and riot for the cameras”.

But that didn’t happen when you finally allowed The n to visit last week, and good on you for testing this out.

What little trouble I had on the island two years ago was with overly-zealous n officials, and never with Nauru’s. Locals warned me of “Naurumours”, and there is no doubt these stories get around.

The key reason n journalists keep asking you questions, trying to find out the truth of life on the island, is the n government is paying you to be a deterrent for asylum seeker boats.

And like any country, I found many contrasting views in my week on Nauru. Ain’t democracy a tremendous thing? (So look forward to watching your elections in June. Reckon opposition will be in jail by then?)

So before you next summarily declare someone a “prohibited immigrant” and deport them from the island, or take aim at “biased international media”, keep calm.

You are indeed a “sovereign” country, as you declare, and that is precisely why wants to keep you on side.

Oh, and don’t forget to friend me.

Daniel

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