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Ousted Coalition Files Legal Challenge Over Crisis

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SUVA: Members of the ousted elected "people's coalition" government of the Fiji Islands have filed a writ against the president, former president, armed forces chief and the military-backed interim administration alleging wrongful dismissal following the May insurrection.

The lawsuit filed in the High Court at Lautoka also claims that the 1997 multiracial and democratic constitution was abrogated illegally.

It also seeks compensation for deposed government members who were held hostage for up to 56 days by armed rebels.

Speaking on Fiji Television last night, ousted deputy prime minister Dr Tupeni Baba said the coalition was seeking a court ruling that the constitution had been abrogated and the government sacked illegally.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of former assistant Minister for Fijian Affairs, Ratu Isireli Vuibau, and parliamentarians Deo Narayan and Dr Gunasagaran Gounder.

Among those cited as defendants are interim President Ratu Josefa Iloilo; former President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara; Fiji Military Forces commander Commodore Frank Bainimarama; Chief Justice Sir Timoci Tuivaga and the Attorney-General, Alipate Qetaki.

The writ seeks rulings by the court declaring that:

* The 1997 constitution has not been lawfully removed or abrogated.

* President Mara acted unlawfully to prorogue Parliament.

* President Mara acted unlawfully in holding that then Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry was unable to perform his duty while being held hostage, and appointing Ratu Tevita Momoedonu acting prime minister.

* Commodore Bainimarama had no powers to make laws under decrees.

* President Iloilo and Commodore Bainimarama acted unlawfully in entering into the Muanikau Accord.

* Commodore Bainimarama had no powers to appoint himself interim head of state.

* President Iloilo has not been lawfully appointed head of state.

* Sir Timoci failed to take necessary steps to retain the existence of the Supreme Court.

* The ousted MPs are entitled to full remuneration and other benefits for the full lawful term of Parliament.

* The MPs are entitled to be compensated for wrongful capture or arrest and detention.

Meanwhile, the Fiji Times today appealed in an editorial for respect for the "impartiality and independence" of Fiji's courts following threats against Chief Magistrate Salesi Temo who is presiding over cases against rebel leader George Speight and others for alleged crimes, including treason, over the May 19 insurrection.

"The nation owes a lot to the courage and integrity of the magistrates and judges serving on the various benches," said the newspaper.

"And the government has to ensure that they and their families are provided safety and security at all times.

"The use of threat reflects a malaise spreading through society, made worse by the political crisis and the recent spate of lawlessness. If not checked now, the cancer will tear apart the very fabric of our society."

+++niuswire

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