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Fiji: Another Judge Resigns


PEOPLES COALITION GOVERNMENT, FIJI

Issue No: 88; 6 October 2000

Another Judge Resigns

Another judge has resigned from the bench effective today.

Justice Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi had resigned at the same time as Justice Jai Ram Reddy had resigned from the Presidency of the Fiji Court of Appeal. Justice Reddy's resignation was effective end of August. Justice Madraiwiwi's resignation is effective today. Reddy is setting up private practice while Madraiwiwi is joining the private law firm of Howards. Madraiwiwi resigned for the same reasons as Reddy - that they did not approve of the attempted abrogation of the 1997 Constitution. Earlier, magistrate Makereta Waqavonovono had also resigned for the same reason.

The judiciary in Fiji has been significantly weakened by these resignations.

Already the public has lost a lot of confidence in the judiciary. The Chief Justice and two other judges (Justice Scott and Justice Fatiaki) were involved in drafting decrees when the military captured power on 29 May. By writing "law", the Chief Justice and the two judges departed from their traditional function of interpreting and giving effect to law. Recently, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative criticised the Chief Justice and other judges for this. The Fiji Law Society has also taken this matter up and is currently discussing ways to deal with this. It is understood that at least one of the three justices has been taking out his vendetta against those lawyers whom he believes raised this matter up initially.

The directive from the Chief Justice for the transfer of a constitutional case filed by the Peoples Coalition from Lautoka to Suva is also seen as an attempt to subvert the cause of justice. The High Court will decide next week whether the case should be transferred to Suva and to another judge.

The series of bungling in the Magistrates Court has seen the Magistrates Court lose its total credibility. First the Chief Magistrate Salesi Temo freed an ex-soldier from attempted murder and carrying illegal weapons charge because he thought he was covered under the Immunity Decree. The High Court overturned this ruling last week.

The Chief Magistrate came under added fire when he did not declare that one of those charged with terrorist George Speight was related to him. He stepped aside only when the prosecution raised objections to him hearing the case. But while he stepped aside from hearing one charge which related to the said accused, Temo continues to hear other related Magistrates Court charges against the Speight Group.

Magistrates' Courts around the country have been giving extremely lenient bail terms for those charged with crimes associated with the terrorist take-over of the Parliament and the government. In many cases, the bails have been in the range $50-$100.

END

6 October 2000.


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