Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Kotobalavu reacts to army postings

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

THE former Chief Executive in the Prime Minister's office says officers assigned to the civil service should consider resigning from the military if they want to continue their duties in the public sector.

Jioji Kotobalavu says it is important there is a clear division between the military and the public service, as the current situation has created an atmosphere of ''fear'' and ''demoralisation'' amongst civil servants and an inability amongst them to properly carry out their jobs.

Mr Kotobalavu's comments were contained in a report in the Pacific Magazine following a presentation at the Australian National University to commemorate six months of Fiji's coup of 5 December 2006.

He says there is nothing wrong with former army members being appointed to the civil service (and that this has happened for many years) as long as they resign from the army.

Bainimarama confident in Driti

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

INTERIM Prime Minister Commander Voreqe Bainimarama says Colonel Pita Driti has been earmarked for one of the posts of High Commissioners.

Commander Bainimarama is confident Colonel Driti will do a good job as a Fiji representative abroad.

Interim Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau confirmed the Land Force Commander was a candidate being considered for an overseas posting.

Ratu Epeli also confirmed that Colonel Mason Smith is being eyed for the vacant post at the Fiji Mission in New York.

Academic: Judiciary being transformed

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

THE independence and neutrality of Fijis judiciary is being questioned after the interim attorney-general called for the resignation of the president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Gordon Ward.

Radio New Zealand International reports that Dr Jon Fraenkel, from the Australian National University, says the judiciary is being transformed.

He says this started with the suspension of the chief justice following the coup and a subsequent decision by a High Court judge to act in that role.

Dr Fraenkel believes the makeup of the Court of Appeal will also change because some judges are refusing to continue when their contracts end within the next month or so.

''Theres also a number of high court judges that have said that they wont accept renewal so they wont be sitting on the Court of Appeal to decide on the legality or otherwise of the activities of December 5th so we can already see that there is a process of transformation of the judiciary to make it more likely that a verdict is declared in favour of the regime.''

You have gone too far, Qarase tells A-G

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

INTERIM Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has come under fire for calling for the resignation of Fiji Court of Appeal president Justice Gordon Ward.

Ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase said he viewed the actions of Mr Sayed-Khaiyum as interference in the judiciary.

"He has gone too far on this one," Mr Qarase said from Lau.

He said the matter could have been handled some other way and Mr Sayed-Khaiyum publicly demanding Justice Ward's resignation did not look good for the judiciary and the Office of the Attorney-General. Fiji Women's Crisis Centre co-ordinator and Human Rights Commissioner Shamima Ali said Mr Sayed-Khaiyum was in no position to ask for Justice Ward's resignation because he was one of those illegally appointed.

She said with the lifting of the Public Safety Act, people had the freedom of speech and those like Justice Ward were actually salvaging the reputation of the legal fraternity and they were respected members of the fraternity locally and internationally.

"People like Mr Sayed-Khaiyum are no position to question their integrity," Ms Ali said.

Fiji Law Society president Devanesh Sharma could not be reached for a comment. Acting Chief Justice Anthony Gates said it was inappropriate to comment on Justice Ward's remarks to LawAsia.

Justice Ward declined to comment on the call for him to resign, because he (Justice Ward) over allegedly compromising his position in the judiciary. Mr Sayed-Khaiyum made the comments after a letter by Justice Ward was written to LawAsia stating that the appointment of Lawasia president Mah Weng Kwai as the chairman for the Fiji Independent Commission against Corruption, it would leave him no choice but to resign his membership from the body.

The letter was dated May 30 and was written to LawAsia's secretary general and copied to Mr Kwai.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the judge tainted his independence when he wrote to LawAsia to question Mr Kwai's acceptance of the post.

"In his letter, among 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," said Mr Sayed-Khaiyum.

"He 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 he is not independent, is partisan and clearly unfit to hear any such matters that concern the Government, FICAC and indeed other members of the judiciary.

"Under these circumstances, it would appear the only honourable and professional option available is to 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 others of their ilk."

The only issue that Justice Ward commented on was the new dates for the sitting of the Court of Appeal.

Justice Ward said the next sitting had been gazetted for July but this proved impossible because of insufficient judges.

"It was possible, however, to arrange this court in order to hear outstanding criminal appeals as they involve issues of personal liberty," Justice Ward said.

He said the members of the Judicial Services Commission had been advised of the arrangement and the new dates were gazetted in April.

"The court will not deal with other comments made and the sitting will take place as listed," Justice Ward said.

Meanwhile, Mr Saiyad-Khaiyum said he discussed the issue with Mr Kwai, who confirmed he would tender in his resignation yesterday.

He said the interim Government would appoint another equally qualified person to the post.

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