Tui Savu is correct in identifying the glossing over of the Qarase-Bainimarama meeting in Wellington on 29 November 2006, and the outcomes of that meeting, as a glaring omission in the ruling handed down by Mr Justice Gates last Thursday. In a proper judicial process, where those facts would be rigorously examined, they would in themselves provide sufficient grounds for upholding the case brought by Laisenia Qarase against Bainimarama et al.
That omission is perhaps the most obvious of a number of factors that, when taken together, point strongly and unambiguously to the over-arching problem any objective court of appeal would have with the 49-page ruling: the “evidence” presented by the acting Chief Justice is so selective and so often unsubstantiated that the overall document can only be taken plainly and squarely as being hugely biased towards the two main defendants, Voreqe Bainimarama and the RFMF.
This is exemplified in the way Justice Gates quotes Bainimarama extensively and by the acting Chief Justice’s selective use of quotation marks to create the illusion that assertions by Bainimarama are in fact matters of hard fact. The employment of this “smothering” device, combined with an outright selectivity in alluding to, or elaborating on facts that might favor the case of the plaintiff (Qarase), is in my opinion so gross as to be transparently contrived.
I am amazed at the extent to which Mr Justice Gates used his ruling to give Bainiimarama an unassailable degree of credibility within the context of the ruling by putting Bainimarama on some sort of pedestal. The most glaring example of this ploy can be found on pages 15-19, all of which a re given over to a verbatim transcript of the dictator’s 4 January 2007 speech in which the dictator officially stepped out of the shoes of the president.
The question has to be asked: if Mr Justice Gates saw fit to quote Bainimarama’s January 2007 speech in full, why then did he not reproduce, word for word, the lengthy statement issued by Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase following the Wellington meeting? On balance, and in the context of history, not to mention the court’s objective of actually determining the truth, the latter document could be said to be the more important of the two. This is because it is fundamental to the reasons why the coup ever happened. But had Justice Gates included that document it would have provided damning evidence that Bainimarama was intent on staging his coup, no matter what, and that the stated reasons for his actions were a smokescreen. And the good judge wouldn’t have wanted that, would he?
I can point to other glaring flaws in the ruling and examples of outright embellishments of the facts by Mr Justice Gates, but I shall mention only one, which fully illustrates how the ruling blatantly relies on unsubstantiated and sensational claims to lend credence to the actions of Bainimarama. This is to be found in paragraph 40 on page 10 of the ruling. I reproduce that paragraph in full below (please note where Justice Gates has inserted the quotation marks):
It (the RFMF) alleged that Hughes was “the front of the Australian Government in its ground strategy of neo-colonialism, weakening the RFMF and (had) the potential to cause instability in Fiji.” The RFMF sought his immediate removal, so as to restore trust and co-operation between the RFMF and the Police.
What a load of idiotic codswallop! How on earth could such a patently nonsensical proposition find its way into a serious and important ruling by our High Court? For the record, anyone who was around at the time of his appointment would know that the Australian police officer, Andrew Hughes, was selected as Commissioner in an open and competitive process. In this age of globalization we often see the recruitment of corporate CEOs, police commissioners and, dare I mention it, even judges (!) by Fiji from Australia.
In the interests of achieving justice, as well as in the interests of exposing the High Court’s ruling for the sham that it is, I strongly urge Mr Qarase to go ahead and appeal and to ensure his lawyers have with them multiple copies of that statement about that fateful meeting in Wellington almost two years ago.