Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Nadroga high chief backs Rt Joni

Tuesday June 12, 2007

A high chief has backed comments made by former vice-president Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi that the interim Government, led by army commander Voreqe Bainimarama, lacks Fijian support.

Suspended deputy chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, the Turaga na Ka Levu Ratu Sakiusa Makutu, said he fully supports the Bau high chief.

"I was suspended from the GCC so I feel the same way. Ratu Joni is a man who cares about all ethnic groups in the country, not just the Fijians.

"So if that was what he said, I'm sure he must have assessed the situation thoroughly," Ratu Sakiusa said.

A concern raised by Ratu Sakiusa is that most people do not want to speak out for fear of being intimidated by the military.

"Our basic rights have been taken away from us," he said, adding that the military would not have done what they did without guns.

At a recent workshop in Canberra organized by the Australian National University, Ratu Joni said, while the interim Government is multiethnic in character, it has limited Fijian support.

He said the Fijian politicians in the interim Cabinet were unsuccessful candidates at last year's elections.

"There is only one member of the SDL Government represented and he is there by default.

"The Commander may well have had good reason for excluding the ousted SDL Government, but it undermines his legitimacy," Ratu Joni said.

Qarase, activist back judge
Tuesday June 12, 2007

The President of Fiji's Court of Appeal has drawn support against calls for his resignation.

Human rights commissioner Shamima Ali said that interim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum is in no position to question the integrity of Justice Gordon Ward.

Ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase reportedly said that Sayed-Khaiyum had gone too far.

Justice Ward, meanwhile, has not responded to the A-G's claim that he had "compromised his position in the judiciary" by questioning why LawAsia president Mah Weng Kwai had aligned himself with the interim regime.

Sayed-Khaiyum said issues raised by Justice Gates would be deliberated in the Fiji courts soon.

Justice Ward in his letter to LawAsia had allegedly questioned the authority of Fiji's president Ratu Josefa Iloilo to make laws and the authority of the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC), which Mah was to head.

A statement from the Fiji Court of Appeal said Justice Ward had made those statements as the Chief Justice for Tuvalu, a position he has held for more than two years.

Justice Ward, who is expected to end his term with the Fiji judiciary mid-year, will lead an appeals court bench hear cases beginning this week.

Three expatriate judges, Justice Peter Pelington, Justice Bruce McPherson and Justice Anthony Ellies, will join Justice Ward for the proceedings.

Sayed-Khaiyum has questioned why Justice Ward had brought forward the July session of the Fiji Court of Appeal "in particular when two of the appeal matters which were to be heard in the July session involve the Acting Chief Justice and a former Prime Minister and Commander of the RFMF".

The appeals court explained in a statement that "it was impossible to obtain sufficient judges".

"It was possible however, to arrange this (Appeals) Court in order to hear outstanding criminal appeals as they involve issues of personal liberty," it said.

One such case is that of activist Angie Heffernan who was alleged to be sought by the military for allegedly "making inciting comments" following the December 5 coup.

Ex-VP is against us: Fiji army
Tuesday June 12, 2007

The military says Fiji's former Vice-President is trying to rally support of indigenous Fijians against it.

Responding to Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi's speech at a workshop at the Australia National University on June 5, military spokesman Major Neumi Leweni said the comments were "misleading and is a case of someone trying very hard to discredit the Fiji Military Forces".

"He is also attempting to solicit the support of the indigenous population which is the same ploy used by the previous government and also in the 2000 crisis."

Major Leweni said the indigenous population has been fooled for too long and has now learnt their lessons.

"The outcome of investigations now ongoing will prove to the general public what the RFMF have been saying all along. It is the very people entrusted to look after the welfare of the grassroots people that have betrayed them."

In a frank and revealing analysis, Ratu Joni, amongst other things, said the interim Government formed by the army commander has limited Fijian support.

He said that many Fijians are convinced that the military takeover on December 5 was an Indian coup and that "no other Fijian leader has so directly confronted the Fijian establishment and remained seemingly unscathed".

He adds that despite the army seeing itself "as self-appointed guarantor of public interest", the coup would be difficult to justify.

"No coup against a democratically-elected government can ever be justified unless the regime concerned is inflicting genocide or some other heinous crime against its own people," he said.

In months preceding the takeover, the Fiji military had repeatedly alleged widespread corruption and abuse of office, threatening to clean-up Government.

Ratu Joni said that any meaningful attempt to prevent any further coups must deal with future role of the Fiji army.

"If not, we are destined to travel this weary path repeatedly in the future, periodic hostages to the messianic ambitions of one military officer after another," he said.

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