Wed, Jun 23, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Opposition lawmakers oust Nauru's president

AP , MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

Photo dated Sept. 11, 2001 of the bankrupt island state of Nauru.

PHOTO: AFP

Opposition lawmakers in Nauru's Parliament ousted President Rene Harris' government yesterday in a vote of no-confidence and elected Ludwig Scotty as leader in the latest twist in this tiny Pacific island nation's political turmoil.

The change may break a deadlock in the 18-member legislature over how to deal with the country's economy, which is on the verge of bankruptcy. Nauru has been financially crippled from corruption and waste of its natural resources for years.

Harris' ouster came while he was in Australia negotiating a deal with creditors on payment of US$172 million owed to US firm General Electric Capital Corp.

The no-confidence vote was taken after Finance Minister Kinza Clodumar dropped his support for Harris in Parliament and backed Scotty, Nauru Embassy official Helen Bogdan said.

"They've elected Ludwig Scotty as president, and he appointed Mr. Clodumar as finance minister in his government," she said.

It was not immediately clear why Clodumar switched sides, but Bogdan said the finance minister was "obviously not happy with the government of Rene Harris."

Leadership of Nauru has switched numerous times in the past decade -- last year, it changed three times in a single month. Allegiances are made by politicians individually and Harris' collection of allies had not even formed a party.

Harris, who was in Melbourne yesterday, told reporters, "I'm not disappointed in losing power, that doesn't last forever, but I'm disappointed in my dear friend who crossed the floor, whom I thought was a friend, but not so."

Former Justice Minister Russel Kun said Monday that Harris had planned to dissolve Parliament and call fresh elections because the legislature was at an impasse.

"Government can't legislate or anything, the house can't legislate or whatever. No business is going forward," Kun told Radio New Zealand.

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