Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
René Reynaldo Harris, MP (born November 11, 1948 in Aiwo) was President of Nauru from 2003 to 2004, and has served three terms in the past. He has been an MP for Aiwo since 1977. He is also involved in Nauru's economic apparatus, namely the Nauru Phosphate Corporation and the Nauru Pacific Line.
His government was responsible for the housing of Australian asylum seekers on the island and also Nauru's admission to the United Nations and full membership in the Commonwealth of Nations. Mr. Harris has been criticized by the Nauruan opposition party (Naoero Amo) and the international community for corruption and violations of human rights.
He was educated at Geelong College in Victoria, Australia. Prior to his election to parliament, Harris worked for the Nauru Phosphate Corporation (NPC) and was the Manager of the Nauru Pacific Line (NPL). Harris was elected Deputy Speaker of the Parliament in 1978 and Speaker in 1986. In 1992 he was also appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors of NPC.
In 1998, Harris was convicted of assault and jail-breaking by forcibly freeing three of his relatives from the Nauru Police lock-up with the help of two accomplices. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation program Foreign Correspondent also claimed that as Chairman of the NPC, Harris spent more than A$231,000 on luxury items, holidays and a property in Melbourne. Harris maintains a luxury penthouse suite on the 51st floor of Nauru House in Melbourne.
Harris first became president on 27 April 1999 and remained in that post until 20 April 2000 when he was replaced by Bernard Dowiyogo, who retained that office until Harris resumed the presidency on 29 March 2001 following a vote of no-confidence in Dowiyogo. The situation assumed farcial proportions in January 2003, when both men held the office twice. Dowiyogo eventually retained the presidency, although his death in March 2003 prompted another round of uncertainty.
Harris was quoted as saying he was re-elected by the nation's parliament because the MPs "didn't see the light" with his predecessor, Ludwig Scotty. Harris successfully broke the Nauruan government's deadlock when he was able to pass legislation through parliament in 2003.
Harris receives monthly kidney dialysis treatment for his diabetes in Melbourne. His health is a major concern because diabetes ended the life of one of his political opponents, Bernard Dowiyogo, at the age of 57 in early 2003. In December 2003, Harris collapsed in Nauru's parliament building and was revived by Dr. Kieren Keke.
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