Sunday, January 13, 2008

Courts will decide coup costs

Sai's Comment:
What a mess and cost to the people of Fiji. All due to the illegal overthrow of a democratically elected Government that had the mandate of the people as opposed to the current illegal one. Wish the people of Fiji will rise up and throw this current lot out of their illegal posts back to the holes that came from.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Taxpayers will eventually foot the bill for the legal wrangles arising out of our latest coup+ Enlarge this image

Taxpayers will eventually foot the bill for the legal wrangles arising out of our latest coup

The interim administration faces being drowned in a flood of civil cases as countless people take exception to their treatment since the military takeover in 2006.

The latest writs have been filed by ousted chief executive officers sacked when Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama took over government.

This year the Attorney- General's Chambers has been allocated $1-million for litigation.

This money is understood to cater for the Fatiaki Tribunal, inquiry into the magistracy and other constitutional cases before the courts, interim Attorney-General Aiyaz- Sayed Khaiyum said.

All the challenges and actions simply mean the taxpayers of this country will end up paying for the legal battles emanating from the December 5 overthrow of Laisenia Qarase.

But alarming warning bells have sounded.

In one case against a Fiji Law Society vice-president, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum was found to be "irresponsible" and having an "ulterior purpose" in instituting court proceedings against Tupou Draunidalo.

Justice Roger Coventry awarded indemnity costs of $20,000 against Mr Sayed- Khaiyum, who has appealed.

Political leaders have condemned the financial allocation for litigation and many are hungry to know how much the interim Government has spent and will spend on legal practitioners in the coming months as more cases end in court.

The National Federation Party has openly condemned Mr Sayed- Khaiyum for exposing the interim Government to massive legal risks.

In January the State filed eight grounds of appeal against a High Court ruling that civil servants and government wage earners could retire at 60 years.

Last month, Justice Filimone Jitoko ruled in favour of the Fijian Teachers Association and the Fiji Public Service Association, which took court action against the Public Service Commission and the AG's Chambers.

The two unions filed for a judicial review following the interim Government's announcement on March 9 last year, to implement the compulsory retirement age policy at 55 years.

The grounds of appeal were premised on the argument that the court was wrong in law and fact as PSC and AG's Chambers failed to consult the FTA and FPSA before the implementation of the new retirement age policy.

The State is now awaiting a date from the Fiji Court of Appeal on when the case will be called.

Justice Jitoko made an order to remove and quash the decision made by the commission on March 9, 2007, on the basis that there was a breach of the Constitution. He declared it was unlawful, null and void.

Justice Jitoko found the PSC and AG's office had acted in breach of Section 38 of the Constitution, which protects an individual from discrimination on the basis of age when it lowered the mandatory retirement age of civil servants to 55 without the agreement of the affected party.

An ousted chief executive officer who is taking the administration to court for unfair dismissal said yesterday since the Public Service Commission hires civil servants they should be the ones sacking them.

He says in the chief executive cases they were fired by Commodore Bainimarama who used the name of the President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, in a promulgation.

"This cannot happen under the Constitution as PSC hires and fires.

"I cannot understand what powers Ratu Josefa has used but that will be decided by the courts.

"As far as I am concerned the Constitution remains alive, and the court is the best institution to rule on the legality or otherwise of my removal," he said. The ousted CEO said his contract was for five years and he had already served three years like most of his colleagues, the balance of which he and they would claim for.

Another ousted CEO who filed a civil writ last month said he was claiming for the remaining two years of his contract as well as special and general damages to be quantified by the court.

Ousted Chief Justice Daniel Fatiaki has filed papers seeking a large range of declarations and relief, including a declaration that the presidential instrumental notice in his suspension last January was unlawful and that the presidential tribunal appointed to investigate six charges against him was unlawful and void.

An argument against the tribunal proceedings was that it was new territory as Fiji had never convened such an inquiry.

Last November Fiji's interim administration said it would fight the multi-million dollar damages claim brought on behalf of New Zealander Ballu Khan.

Khan's lawyer Peter William QC had filed a writ in the High Court seeking compensation of $40m, saying his client was beaten senseless by the military and wrongfully detained.

Mr Khan is one of the 11 people charged over an assassination plot against Bainimarama, certain cabinet ministers as well as senior members of the military.

Last month too the State said it would oppose an application filed by dismissed Great Council of Chiefs members for leave to review the decision of Ratu Josefa.

Sacked GCC chairman Ratu Ovini Bokini, the Tui Tavua, Bau chief Ratu Epenisa Cakobau, Nadroga chief Ratu Sakiusa Makutu and Ratu Ratavo Lalabalavu of Cakaudrove province, want a judicial review of the President's decision to change the composition of the GCC under Section 3 of the Fijian Affairs Act.

But before they can get a judicial review of Ratu Josefa's decision, the chiefs must first seek permission to do so, thus a leave for a judicial review of the decision. Ironically, under the Constitution, it is the GCC that appoints the President and Vice-President.

Under the change, the GCC will now consist of 52 members instead of 55 from the provinces.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum's office said the State would vigorously oppose the application for a judicial review regarding the regulations made by the President pursuant to Section 3 of the Act.

The motion is separate from a case filed by the same chiefs against their dismissal from the GCC.

They have named Ratu Josefa and Mr Sayed-Khaiyum as respondents.

In the same month, leave for judicial review was called before Justice Jiten Singh, who allowed the State to file an affidavit in response to the application.

The lawyer representing the AG's chambers, Adish Narayan, had made an application for both matters to be heard together by the same judge, Justice Devendra Pathik.

Mr Pathik has already set January 15 as the hearing date.

Then there is the constitutional case of Laisenia Qarase and other Cabinet ministers against the regime.

Obviously the $1m for litigation will not be enough to meet all the claims against the interim administration , something Fiji's struggling economy can already ill afford.

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