Thursday, October 04, 2007

Bainimarama Takeover is Illegal

Parties present case before High Court
Thursday October 04, 2007

Ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase's legal action against Fiji's interim regime began earlier this morning with lawyers of both parties making their opening statements before the Suva High Court.

First to make his submission was State lawyer Queen's Counsel Guy Reynolds who said there were 'large and complex issues at stake' in the trial.

He said it dealt with the fundamental legality dealing with the exercise by the President of his reserve prerogative powers as a sovereign.

Reynolds made reference to when in 1985 the Australian Governor-General dismissed the country's Prime Minister in November 1985.

"It is that sort of issue we are talking about," he said.

Qarase's lawyer Nye Perran highlighted on how his client came to be Prime Minister and form the coalition government.

He also told the court that the military had started making demands to the Qarase government, referring to army commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama's insistence that proposed Bills (such as the Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill) be shelved for good.

Perran told the court that in the early hours of December 4, Bainimarama had asked Qarase to resign. Qarase refused.

He then met with President Ratu Josefa Iloilo on December 5 and asked him to dismiss Qarase.

He said Bainimarama told the President that if he didn't, he (Bainimarama) would take executive authority of the country - to which the President replied 'Vinaka Vakalevu' (thank you very much).

He said Bainimarama then ordered the takeover.

Perran argued that the Constitution did not give the commander to exercise the powers of the President.

"The purported dismissal of the Prime Minister by the commander was ultra virus and void," he said.

He added that all the promulgations and appointments made by the interim regime since the coup were ultra virus.

The trial continues this afternoon.

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