The ruling was handed down this afternoon by Chief Justice Geoffrey Eames QC, and it comes after a fortnight of political infighting on the island nation.
Two weeks ago the speaker of parliament Ludwig Scotty dissolved the house indefinitely, leading to a Supreme Court challenge, after which Chief Justice Eames ruled that his doing so was outside the constitution.
On Monday this week President Sprent Debwido announced a national election to be held on April the sixth, and also announced the dissolution of parliament to allow it.
The next day, the court heard another appeal, and today it made its ruling.
Presenter: Campbell Cooney
Speaker: Dr Kieran Keke, MP
KEKE: In summary, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Speaker's action to dissolve parliament was unlawful, that he did not have constitutional authority that enabled him to dissolve and therefore the court has ruled that action null and void, the 20th parliament has not been dissolved. And the consequence of that the writs that the Speaker issued for the holding of a general election which was to be held on the 6th of April, was also unlawful. The court has declared that that writ for the election is also null and void. The Chief Justice went further to enforce these declarations by ordering the returning officer to cease any actions that he may undertake in preparing for an election. And again went even further by ordering the Speaker to reconvene a sitting of the 20th parliament to fulfil the requirements of the Article 41 to enable members to adequately debate and consider the President's wish to dissolve parliament. And has given a timeframe of 28 days within which the Speaker must commence that sitting. The order to convene parliament has been undertaken or delivered in a way that does give him ample time, gives him 28 days. So we think that the Chief Justice has been actually quite liberal in the amount of time that he's allowed the Speaker.
COONEY: You were one of the people who took the actions, happy with what's been put forward, the parliament will reconvene then?
KEKE: For us the main thing that we were fighting for was the Constitution, the sovereignty of our Constitution. The Constitution is owned by the people of Nauru, this is an action we took on behalf of the people of Nauru. There's not really a direct benefit to us. The benefit is that the court has made it unequivocally clear that no person is above the Constitution. And I think one of the landmark elements of this decision by Chief Justice Eames is that he has made it clear for the first time in Nauru that the court has the power to order parliament to take specific action where they are in breach of Constitutional requirements.
COONEY: The election is going to be deferred, there will not be one on the 6th of April. There will be one this year. Earlier this year, you resigned your portfolio in the government of Sprent Dabwido. I'm curious if you think about that election and whenever it's going to be held, what are the issues that it will be contested on?
KEKE: The people in Nauru are seeking a lot more clarity about government policy, government priorities and how they claim to deliver those policies and priorities. One of the overriding reasons for my resignation from Sprent Dabwido's cabinet was that there was absolutely no clear direction, there was a mishmash of conflicting policies, there was no coherence in the delivery of government programs, and it was impossible to continue working in that kind of environment and with that leadership style. He lost the support of his own caucus and the reasons were because of that lack of direction. There's certainly a need for change in the leadership. We believe that our group is a group that has always been the group that's provided good governance, provided a very clear path to growth and development, we've lifted Nauru out of extreme hardship, put us on the track to recovery. I think that's ..[inaudible]
better, our group will be the group that can continue to deliver that.
COONEY: Twenty-eight days to reconvene and once this has been debated would you expect that then again the election will be called and another four weeks that it's going to happen sooner rather than later? I think you have at least till the end of July or maybe even into August to hold those elections, but do you believe it will be earlier in the year than that?
KEKE: We've never had an issue with having early elections, our issue has been about ..[inaudible] procedure, honouring the constitution and doing things properly and legally. I think it's clear there's an expectation that the parliament will dissolve before its term naturally ends in late June, the exact timing of that I think will become clear within the next month.