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Chief Justice Defends Military Role

SUVA: Fiji's Chief Justice has defended the Pacific country's interim military administration as the only "viable alternative government" and says the judiciary's cooperation with the martial law authorities was necessary.

The Chief Justice, Sir Timoci Tuivaga, described the judiciary's role in a report published by the Daily Post today amid reports of mounting resignations of judges and magistrates.

He said the the military authorities needed to be recognised given the "situation triggered by the state of insurrection in the country which so far has proved insidiously intractable".

Sir Timoci made his comments in reply to criticism by the council of the Fiji Law Society after he drafted decrees for the military government which took control of the country on May 29.

He said he had taken this step because the 1997 Constitution had been unable to provide any solution to the "political and constitutional mess" gripping the country.

"While a de facto government is in place it is impossible for me as Chief Justice not to acknowledge its actual existence as a matter of political reality," he said.

"It is also impossible for me not to take notice of the de facto government's publicly expressed desire of maintaining law and order in the country.

"I considered my intervention on my part as absolutely necessary if the court system were to function properly in preserving law and order in avoiding chaos and confusion within the fabric of our society."

A Commonwealth delegation was due to arrive today to hold discussions with the military authorities and trade unions.

The delegation includes New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff and his Australian counterpart Alexander Downer.

Meanwhile, the Fiji Times reports that presidential nominee and the Tui Vuda, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, has agreed to step in and mediate between the military and rebel leader George Speight's group.

He is expected to urge Speight's group to nominate to a civilian administration "competent professionals who will pursue the objectives of the coup".

Sources close to Ratu Josefa said the western chief shared the concerns that the inclusion of Speight and his group would be detrimental to the country and its citizens, the newspaper said.

Overseas countries have threatened to impose trade sanctions against Fiji if Speight and his rebels are included in the interim administration.

+++niuswire

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