Kiribati faces uncertain times ahead as the Government rules with a minority support in parliament for the first time in the history of the country, the coalition Opposition goes to court twice against the Speaker of Parliament, legislators engage in heated debates in parliament and both sides of the house lock horns over claims of the people’s support that have catapulted the atoll republic headlong into a whirlpool of uncertainties and uneasiness as the general election draws near.
The divisive issue was initially fallout from the Government’s sudden switch from support for Taiwan to mainland China on September 20 last year. It came to a heated head during parliamentary debate over the Government budget presented by Vice President and Finance Minister Dr. Teuea Toatu in November. The budget was defeated 26 against, 18 for and 1 abstaining when some Government backbenchers and one senior Minister crossed the floor, justifying their move by claiming that the Government’s explanations for switching loyalties were, at best, flimsy.
In explaining the Taiwan-to-China switch in a nation-wide broadcast on the Government-sponsored Radio Kiribati, Vice President Dr. Toatu gave three reasons: Taiwan’s refusal of the country’s requests for increases in aid, bypassing Kiribati in the Pacific high-level visits by Taiwan and failure to honour agreements.