Nauru’s government has defended the suspension of three opposition MPs from Parliament over critical comments to foreign media and accused one of attempting to incite a riot.
Justice Minister David Adeang said the three MPs were suspended for intending to "inflict maximum damage to Nauru’s reputation".
The trio have been critical about government actions in recent months, including the deportation of the chief magistrate in January and a subsequent decision by Bendigo Bank not to establish a branch on the island.
Mr Adeang said one of the MPs, Kieren Keke, had deliberately inflamed tensions on Wednesday by refusing to leave his seat in the Parliament and had “tried to incite a riot” by organising supporters to mass outside Parliament.
Dr Keke, a former foreign minister, told Fairfax Media a scuffle broke out inside Parliament after about 20 police entered the chamber and several other parliamentarians sought to protect him.
Mr Adeang defended the suspensions and denied this amounted to censorship.
“There is a place to argue your point and that is here in the Parliament. These MPs have done what no other country would deem acceptable – use the foreign media to trash our international reputation,” Mr Adeang said in a written statement.
“They were suspended due to their deliberate attempts and damaging comments to foreign media undermining the good work of the [President Baron] Waqa government to introduce Bendigo Bank to the island.”
The government has previously prevented local media from broadcasting comments of opposition MPs after they sought to criticise decisions to allow refugees from the Australian-run immigration centre to settle on the island.
The government pushed through the motion to suspend the MPs on Tuesday, while two of the MPs, Mathew Batsiua and Roland Kun, were overseas.
Each of the three opposition MPs have spoken to Fairfax Media in recent months - along with Nauru government representatives.
Mr Batsiua has since returned to the island but could not be reached for comment.