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Fiji: Closed Police Chief Inquiry 'Shocking'

Fiji: Closed Police Chief Inquiry Branded 'Shocking'

USP Pacific Journalism Online: http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/ USP Journalism on the Fiji crisis (UTS host): http://www.journalism.uts.edu.au/archive/coup.html
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SUVA: An inquiry into the conduct of Fiji's Police Commissioner Isikia Savua during the May insurrection has opened with the Daily Post newspaper today condemning it as "shocking decision" to bar the news media.

Opening the disciplinary inquiry yesterday, Chief Justice Sir Timoci Tuivaga said people who could help verify allegations of misconduct against the police chief had until September 12 to testify.

Witnesses could remain anonymous if they feared reprisal or victimisation, he said.

The public was excluded from the hearings after the chief justice's opening address.

But the deposed elected coalition government expressed concerns over the

independence of the judiciary over court moves involving constitutional legal challenges.

Calling in an editorial for an open inquiry, the Daily Post said: "What's good for the geese is also good for the gander.

"Similarly, what's good for coup maker George Speight, must also be good

for Police Commissioner Isikia Savua."

It was questionable for the chief justice not to allow the news media to

be present for testimony, the paper said.

"It is indeed a shocking decision. Sir Timoci agues that the tribunal is

essentially a disciplinary inquiry which is of immediate interest and concern only to Savua and his employing authority, the Public Service Commission.

"[This inquiry] is not purely incidental as Sir Timoci leads us to believe.

"It must be remembered that the inquiry has come about as a direct result of a public outcry. It has come about because members of the public began questioning the role Commissioner Savua played during the events of May 19 and its aftermath.

"What is there to hide? Do we have two sets of rules applicable in our effort to bring about transparency - one for the elite in society and one for people like George Speight and others who now suffer the indignity of open court...

"Let's thrash it out in the open. Too many people have suffered and are carrying the scars of May 19. If we believe in open government, this is our chance.

"Give justice a chance, after all the truth will always prevail."

Meanwhile, the Fiji Labour Party has expressed concern over reports that

the chief justice had sought to transfer a case from Lautoka to Suva.

Former deputy Prime Minister Dr Tupeni Baba said the interferences within the judicial system were serious.

"There may be interferences occurring on our writs where we are challenging the legality of our dismissal," he said.

Dr Baba said the deposed government's cases against their economic and political overthrow were filed in the Lautoka High Court.

"We will be keeping a close eye on things. The chief justice's exercise is questioning and shocking," Dr Baba said.

"The goings on in the High Court are deeply worrying," said the Fiji Times in an editorial.

"Why the chief justice should seek to instruct a High Court judge to step aside in favour of another judge remains something of a mystery.

"Nevertheless, it smacks of judge shopping."

+++niuswire

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