Thursday, April 09, 2009

Ruling boosts case for Fiji elections: Crean

Ruling boosts case for Fiji elections: Crean
By Linda Mottram and Sean Dorney

The Australian Government says Fiji's military ruler, Frank Bainimarama, should respect a Fijian Court of Appeal ruling finding the interim military government illegal.
The Appeal Court has called for new elections, ordering the president to dissolve parliament and appoint a caretaker interim prime minister.
Pacific Island Forum leaders have been trying to coax Commodore Bainimarama to call elections to return Fiji to democracy, setting a deadline of May 1.
Acting Australian Foreign Minister Simon Crean says the court ruling is consistent with the position taken by the Pacific Island Forum leaders, saying Australia is willing to provide considerable assistance to ensure successful elections.
The Appeal Court declared the dismissal of prime minister Laisenia Qarase, whose government was overthrown in the 2006 coup, invalid.
Fiji's interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says today's court ruling declaring Commodore Bainimarama's government illegal has left a dangerous power vacuum in Fiji.
But it is a sweet victory for Mr Qarase.
"My position has been vindicated and the court has declared that the takeover and the appointment of the interim administration by the president were unlawful and invalid," he said.
Mr Qarase says the court's decision has huge implications, but says it is still unclear when democratic elections will be held.
"It was an historic one for Fiji and for other developing countries that have a constitution ... it shows the constitution of the country as supreme law ... and has to be followed by all citizens including the head of state - in our case the president," he said.
Today's finding overturns a ruling by the country's High Court last year that the interim government was legal and that the president of Fiji had prerogative powers to establish it.
The interim government is planning an appeal.

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