Treason warning to expat Fiji judges

Chris Merritt and John Stapleton | April 13, 2009

Article from:  The Australian

THE Australian judges who triggered Fiji’s latest political crisis have branded the Pacific nation’s president a dictator and warned that any expatriate judges who accept job offers from him could be seen as treasonous.

The attack on president Josefa Iloilo was unleashed yesterday after he had sacked the country’s judiciary, torn up the constitution and reappointed a prime minister whose regime the judges had declared illegal.

“He is effectively a dictator – that is a strong word, but that is the situation,” said Ian Lloyd, one of the three Australian judges on Fiji’s Court of Appeal who last Thursday ruled that military leader Frank Bainimarama’s seizure of power in a 2006 coup was illegal.

Mr Iloilo responded to the ruling by sacking all Fiji’s judges, declaring a 30-day state of emergency and, on Saturday, swearing Mr Bainimarama back into office as prime minister. Press censorship has also been imposed.

Mr Iloilo promised to appoint his own judges to replace those he had sacked. But Mr Lloyd warned that “any expat now thinking of taking a position will effectively be swearing allegiance to an illegal dictator”.

“On one view, you could be regarded as being treasonous because this regime is illegal,” he said. All three Australian judges fear that those judges who remain loyal to Fiji’s constitution are risking a confrontation with the military. The Australians – Mr Lloyd, Randall Powell SC and Francis Douglas QC – warned that this could come tomorrow when Fiji’s courts reopen for the first time since the coup.

The Australians, who normally practise as barristers in Sydney, ruled that Mr Iloilo had unlawfully purported to validate the 2006 coup that brought Mr Bainimarama to power.

Mr Douglas, who was sworn in by the president only last Monday, said he agreed with Mr Lloyd’s assessment that Mr Iloilo was now a dictator.

The three Australian judges handed down their controversial ruling on Thursday after walking past a contingent of between 50 and 80 uniformed troops who had arrived at the court building in Fiji’s capital, Suva.

“They weren’t in the court itself, but they were in the precincts of the court,” Mr Lloyd said. “They were scattered around the corridors and guarding the stairways. “It may have been to protect us, but we didn’t really think we needed protection from the public,” he said.

All three judges said yesterday that the President’s decree sacking the judiciary had no legal effect.

“We are still judges,” said Mr Douglas. And they believe that applies to all the magistrates and judges who have purportedly been sacked by the President.

Mr Lloyd, who was the last of the three to return to Sydney, said Australian consular officials in Fiji had urged him to leave the country immediately and to keep a low profile until he boarded a flight to Sydney on Saturday.

But before he left, he said he had learned that Fiji’s Chief Justice, Anthony Gates, wanted the country’s judges to appear in court tomorrow, despite their purported dismissal.

Chief Justice Gates, who holds joint British and Australian citizenship, had told Australian expatriate judge Tom Hickie that the best course of action would be to turn up for court on Tuesday “and see what happens”.

About six expatriate Australians are part of Fiji’s judiciary, including Chief Justice Gates, Justice Hickie and high-profile judge Jocelynne Scutt.

Mr Powell, Mr Lloyd and Mr Douglas urged the Law Council of Australia and the federal Government to take whatever steps they could to ensure the welfare of Fiji’s judiciary.

“They need as much help from outside as they can (get),” Mr Douglas said.

Mr Powell said he would not be surprised if Fiji’s judges continued to sit on cases.

“They just cannot be dismissed like this. They are still judges. They can only be dismissed for misconduct,” he said. “I am not saying they should make themselves martyrs by going into court.”

He said he believed anyone who sought to take their place would strike extreme problems.

“I am still a judge of Fiji for another two years but as a practical matter I will not be allowed back into the country – as least while the military is in charge.”

Mr Lloyd said Mr Iloilo, 88, appeared to be carrying out Mr Bainimarama’s instructions. Mr Douglas said he was extremely disappointed at the President’s reaction and it meant an opportunity to return Fiji to democracy had receded.

Fiji has been under pressure to hold elections soon, but Mr Iloilo said they would now not be held for five more years.


  1. Lisa Says:

    I don’t usually comment but I have been reading the anti Fiji coup sites and found interesting comments on them that I knew I had read on this site. A blogger on this site had made the issue known on this very site last year about President Iloilo.

    What did I do, I put a few names into the search engine and found it was the blogger Adi Kaila who had revealed to us what other sites are only taking in now. Take a look at the date, 8 December 2008.

    Looks like Adi was right all along. Seems the blogger really does know what she comments about, pity you rubbished her so badly as you did the President. Don’t believe me, well go on & read some of the older posts and the comments by Adi, I’d have her on my side anytime. The following comments have supported and proven exactly what she wrote.

  2. Relax Man Says:

    ??????? what do you mean??? only a few claiming to be the “thousands” ghost bloggers????

  3. Grace Says:

    Iloilo the puppet

    Bainimarama the puppeteer

  4. Budhau Says:

    Talking about treason and abrogation of constitution – here is a cust and paste.

    Chief Justice Tuivaqa, together with judges, Michael Scott and Daniel Fatiaki (who later succeeded him as Chief Justice), advised the then-President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, to abrogate the Constitution, as requested by the Military. Mara refused and resigned on 29 May, 2000. An Interim Military Government, headed by Commodore Frank Bainimarama took power, abrogated the Constitution, and promulgated the Administration of Justice Decree, which Tuivaga had drafted. This decree abolished the Supreme Court, made the Chief Justice the President of the Appeal Court (of which, according to the constitution, he had previously been barred from membership). Another decree extended the retirement age of the Chief Justice from 70 years to 75. Fiji Law Society President Peter Knight condemned Tuivaga’s actions, saying, “The eyes of the profession, the nation and the world are upon the judiciary. It cannot be seen to openly condone criminal activity. It should as a matter of record that it will continue to occupy and function in its judicial role in the same uncompromising manner as it had done prior to 19 May.” (These changes to the judiciary were subsequently reversed by a High Court decision to reinstate the Constitution on 15 November 2000. This decision was upheld by the Appeal Court on 1 March 2001).

    BTW – we had later nominated Tuivaga to the ICC (that international court), and some of you buggers now wand FB to be tried in that court.

    So why was it OK to abrogate that constitution, and Qarase fought to see that that constitution remained abrogated, and we have a problem with treason.

    Did Qarase investigate and prosecute Tuivaqa and Fatiaki – hell no he made Fatiaki the CJ.

  5. Ben_St0ne Says:

    In the words of Max Payne.”If you throw the Book out the windows chances are that’s where you’ll end up.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: