Monday, June 11, 2007

Interim Government 'delusional': Ratu Jo

Monday, June 11, 2007

The military and the interim Government are deluding themselves as they take the country through an "Alice in Wonderland" journey, says former Vice-President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi.

The former High Court judge says the military and interim regime's continued insistence their actions are within the Constitution is absurd.

He was speaking at a workshop at the Australian National University, where he said the military's legal advisers "in the shadows of the interim Attorney-General" would have been better advised to have abrogated the 1997 Constitution. He said any meaningful attempt to prevent future coups was to ensure the military knew its place in society, which was in the barracks if there was no external security threat.

Failure to deal with this issue would mean that Fiji is "destined to travel this weary path repeatedly in the future, periodic hostages to the messianic ambitions of one military officer after another," he said.

Related stories: -Monday, June 11, 2007

Interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry has accused former Vice-President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi of trying to incite racial hatred.

He was referring to the paper presented by the Bau chief at a workshop organised by the Australian National University in Canberra last week.

In the paper, Ratu Joni highlighted what he claimed to be perceptions of "many in the Fijian heartland" that the interim Government was the "handmaiden" of Mr Chaudhry.

He added that "many Fijians are convinced that this was an Indian coup.

Still, others think it was a Muslim coup because of the association with a few prominent Muslims".

Mr Chaudhry said it was far from the truth and was most unfortunate that a person in such a high position made such racist remarks.

"He shouldn't blame others for his misfortune and he is also inciting racial hatred with these kinds of comments.

"I think he is just trying to play Bauan politics.

"I wished he had made the statements here rather than overseas."

Ratu Joni could not be reached for a comment last night.

Ousted SDL parliamentarian Mere Samisoni said Ratu Joni was one of the few remaining leaders who deserved respect.

"He was removed because he wouldn't bow to the commander," she said.

"Anybody not supporting the coup is termed a racist. I'm glad Ratu Joni has spoken out.

"He is a professional, a wise leader and sees things from all sides before he makes an assessment.

"I think his paper assesses the situation in Fiji very well and he's no racist."

Ratu Joni, in his paper, took a swipe at the interim Government's proposed National Charter for Change and Progress and a National Council for Building a Better Fiji.

"The interim Government has proposed a high level council and secretariat heralding a process of engagement with the wider community (as presented by key parties in civil society and the private sector).

"What is envisaged at the end of several months of consultations is a charter that reflects the broad principles upon which our future governance is to be based," said Ratu Joni in the paper.

"The concept per se has merit. However, the structure is cumbersome and there is a real doubt the voices of ordinary people will be heard. There are also continuing concerns about the legitimacy and mandate of those convening the gathering."

He asked the interim administration if it was honourable in its intention or if it was just trying to "cloak themselves in some mantle of popular acclaim".

The permanent secretary in the Prime Minister's Office, Parmesh Chand, denied the claims and said they were doing everything by the book and the interim Government would be guided by the views of the people making submissions.

Further reading: Mythic Constitutionalism: Whither Fiji's course in June, 2007? (Full text of paper presented by Ratu Joni)

I will not be present in court, Qarase says

Monday, June 11, 2007

Ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase will not be present for the first day of his court case against the military today.

Speaking from Mavana, Vanuabalavu on Saturday night, Mr Qarase said his court case against the military commander would have to go ahead without him.

"My case on Monday will just have to happen without me," he said.

Since he flew to Vanuabalavu with wife Leba on December 6, the military had ordered that he remain there and not return to Suva.

Interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said all citizens in Fiji had the freedom of movement within the bounds of the law.

Mr Qarase and members of the ousted Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party-led government are challenging their removal from power by the military led by Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.

The ousted government members include ousted Education Minister Ro Teimumu Kepa, ousted Lands Minister Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, ousted Home Affairs Minister Josefa Vosanibola, and ousted Commerce Minister Adi Sivia Qoro, SDL party executives Ratu Apenisa Loki and Peceli Kinivuwai.

The case will be heard before acting Chief Justice Anthony Gates when the two interlocutory applications by the military and Mr Qarase are heard.

Interim AG calls on Justice Ward to resign - June 10, 2007

Interim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum
Fiji’s Interim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has called on the President of the Fiji Court of Appeal Justice Gordon Ward to resign.

In a statement Sayed-Khaiyum claims Justice Ward supported (lawyer) Graham Leung and wrote a letter to LAWASIA questioning as to why its president Mah Weng Kwai had taken the post of commissioner on at the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Sayed-Khaiyum said Justice Ward should immediately hand in his resignation and save "our judiciary and our nation at large from the onslaught waged by those such as him, Leung and other of their ilk."

He added it is a grave concern and Justice Ward has completely compromised his position, that of an independent judge.

"All these matters are before the courts and a senior judge making such pronouncements indicates that he is not independent, is partisan and clearly unfit to hear any such matters or matters that concern the Government, FICAC and indeed other members of the judiciary."

Sayed-Khaiyum added that his pronouncements as a senior judge will in all likelihood have an impact on the legal interpretations and actions of judges of the High Court and the Magistracy.

"It places our judiciary as a whole in an invidious position.

"Such actions of senior members of the judiciary as demonstrated through the 2000 experience invariably tend to cause a major damage to the independence of the judiciary," he said.

The Interim AG added that it is also of grave concern that he (Justice Ward) has brought the July session of the Fiji Court of Appeal forward given, "what can only be now termed as his very public political and legal leanings, in particular when two of the appeal matters which were to be heard in July session involve the Acting Chief Justice and a former Prime Minister and Commander of the RFMF."

According to Sayed-Khaiyum, on May 30 Justice Ward wrote to LAWASIA on the letter head of the Court of Appeal questioning as to why Mah had taken the position.

"In his letter amongst other things he stated that the events of December 5 was a ‘coup’, that our ‘President has no power to make laws’ and consequently made judgments about FICAC," he said.

Mah has confirmed that he will tender his resignation as commissioner of FICAC to the President Ratu Josefa Iloilo tomorrow.

Justice Ward and Leung are unavailable for comments

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