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Constitutional Ruling Judge Threatened

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Staff Reporters USP's Pacific Journalism Online

SUVA: The judge who drafted last week's landmark judgment ruling that Fiji's military installed interim administration is illegal and that the 1997 constitution is still the supreme law has been threatened, according to media reports.

Acting Police Commissioner Moses Driver told Fiji Television last night that Justice Anthony Gates had been threatened and police were providing security for the judge.

But Acting Commissioner Driver did not give further details on the threats.

Driver revealed this while confirming that the police would respect the Gates judgment at the High Court in Lautoka. But he said the police, like the military, would also observe the appeal process.

The interim administration is taking a challenge to the judgement to the Court of Appeal.

Driver said the police remained committed to maintaining law and order in the country. He appealed to the public to be alert.

"We trust and hope that people who have better understanding of the judicial system to properly interpret Justice Gates' ruling to the people at large to prevent raising emotions that might lead people to resorting to lawlessness," he said.

Police and armed soldiers on Friday sealed off areas around Lautoka courthouse for four hours because of a hoax bomb threat.

According to the Fiji Sun, the Fiji Labour Party which won an outright majority in the 1999 general election and headed the coalition government, held a caucus meeting yesterday and decided to await deposed President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara's return from New Zealand to reconvene Parliament.

Judge Gates ruled that Ratu Mara was still the lawful President of the nation, not the military appointed Ratu Josefa Iloilo.

The Labour Party also called on the international community to honour the court judgement.

Party president Jokapeci Koroi said members of the interim administration should "refrain from making appointments and spending taxpayers' money as they don't have a legal basis".

Mrs Koroi said the drafted decrees, and the 2001 budget due to be handed down this week, had no legal validity.

"Three members of the judiciary, including the Chief Justice [Sir Timoci Tuivaga] have been identified in the judgment as having drafted decrees which are illegal," she told the Fiji Sun.

But the interim administration insists that it will continue to govern and will not step down.

Interim Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase says his government is legally appointed and it will only listen to President Iloilo who is due back in Fiji tomorrow from a medical check-up in Australia.


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