Fiji’s law thief defiant as official sackings mount

Chris Merritt, Legal affairs editor | April 15, 2009
Article from: The Australian

FIJI’s top law officer has rejected Australia’s criticism of the purge of his nation’s judiciary, saying: “The new judges will be just as independent as the old judges.”

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the criticism that had been directed at the regime over last week’s sacking of Fiji’s judiciary had been premature and inconsistent.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum’s comments came as Fiji’s military tightened its grip on the troubled island, taking control of the central bank and removing all constitutional office holders, including the Supervisor of Elections, the Ombudsman, the Auditor-General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Commissioner of Police, and the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

“Things have reached an unpredictable stage, some sort of crackdown is under way,” New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said.

“We have a volatile situation on our hands.”

Many of those who had criticised the removal of the judges had previously criticised the same judges for accepting office after the coup of December 2006 that brought military strongman Frank Bainimarama to power.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the Government of Fiji had a record of not interfering with the judiciary, and that it should be judged on the performance of the planned new judiciary. “Ask any of the judges who were appointed during 2007 and 2008, and they will say they were never more independent,” he said.

This applied to the three Australian judges on Fiji’s Court of Appeal who ruled on Thursday that Commodore Bainimarama’s Government was illegal.

“They will vouch for this – they have not at any stage said we came and told them what to do, what to write or what to say,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“To date, no judge can look you in the face and say we have interfered with any of the goings on in the judiciary.”

One day after last week’s judgment, President Josefa Iloilo scrapped the Constitution, sacked all judges – including the three who ruled he had acted unlawfully – introduced press censorship and declared a 30-day state of emergency.

Mr Sayed-Khayum said criticism of Fiji since Friday’s events needed to be kept in perspective. “There is no violence – law and order prevails.”

He said the conduct of the regime led by Commodore Bainimarama formed a sharp contrast with what happened in 1987 when Sitiveni Rabuka seized power. “Rabuka locked up judges and treated people in an undignified manner,” he said.

The Attorney-General’s defence of the regime came on the day police surrounded the courts and turned away dozens of lawyers and some judges aiming to defy what they consider the illegitimate sacking of the judiciary.

Fiji Law Society president Dorsami Naidu was arrested yesterday in Lautoka, Fiji’s second city, after lawyers and High Court judge Gwen Phillips were prevented from entering the court.

A photographer from the Fiji Times (owned by News Corporation, publisher of The Australian) was detained for attempting to photograph Justice Phillips being turned away by police.

Mr Naidu’s arrest comes soon after he wrote to all Fiji judges advising them their dismissal had no legal effect. Law Society councillor Samuel K. Ram said Mr Naidu was questioned by police throughout the day.

The governor of Fiji’s central bank, Savenaca Narube, was also dismissed and tighter exchange controls were imposed. “It’s a precautionary measure. It’s a short-term measure,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said. He said the courts had been closed because the abrogation of the Constitution meant all constitutional offices had ceased to exist. He described the Constitution overthrown last week as “an amendment to the 1990 Constitution that had introduced a racist system” of government. He said a judicial services decree would reconstitute the courts “in 24 hours or so” and “we have a number of people who have shown willingness to be appointed to the bench”.

He refused to say whether any of the judges who had been dismissed last week had agreed to work under the new arrangements or whether Chief Justice Anthony Gates would be reappointed.

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4 Responses to “Fiji’s law thief defiant as official sackings mount”

  1. Relax Man Says:

    Good job!!! only the clean ones will come in now!!! the corrupt ones will be left out!!

  2. Ben_St0ne Says:

    We have now Outlawed outlaws.Illegally for most part.There is no shit in crap anymore.

  3. Budhau Says:

    ““Things have reached an unpredictable stage, some sort of crackdown is under way,” New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said.”

    Yeap, the NZ embassy is in the same building as the RBF. Since the soldiers were there at RBF – McCully concluded that “some sort of crackdown is under way”.

    Maybe we should go one further,, and say that the solders looted the RBF and took $100 million, never mind that there was not money there.

  4. Relax Man Says:

    Ben well said bro, your comments indicate you’re losing it so relax and go with the flow, accept it as it comes because we have only one life and you may end up being miserable all your life!!!

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