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Fiji: Stage set for Appeal Court ruling

Stage set for Appeal Court ruling

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SUVA (Pasifik Nius): The stage is set for the Court of Appeal sitting this week that will decide the future of Fiji in the wake of failed businessman George Speight's attempted coup last May.

The court will rule on Justice Anthony Gates' judgement last November which declared the 1997 multiracial constitution was still the supreme law of the country and called for the elected Parliament to be reconvened to form a legal government.

Five expatriate judges who will make up the court arrived in the country yesterday under tight security, the Sunday Post reported.

The five judges are:

Sir Maurice Casey, a retired New Zealand Court of Appeal judge, who will head the panel.

Sir Mari Kapi, Deputy Chief Justice of Papua New Guinea.

Sir Ian Barker, a retired New Zealand Court of Appeal judge.

Justice Gordon Ward, the Chief Justice of Tonga.

Justice Ken Handley, of the New South Wales Court of Appeal.

A High Court source told the Sunday Post all necessary preparations had been done to ensure a smooth start for the appeal hearing starting tomorrow.

"The five judges who make up the panel are qualified, experienced and well versed with Pacific culture. One good example is Justice Gordon Ward who has served in Fiji in the 1980s as chief magistrate and who later served as chief justice in the Solomons and now comes from Tonga," the source said.

"We have to be patient and let them do their job, let the law take its due course."

The legal team representing Indo-Fijian cane farmer refugee Chandrika Prasad who filed the original case based on the abrogation of citizens' human rights, have also arrived in Fiji.

Leading British human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, QC, and another English lawyer, Sadakat Kadri, have flown in from London.

They join Professor George Williams from Australia who led the successful constitutional challenge against the purported abrogation of the 1997 constitution in the wake of the coup.

They will be assisted by two Fiji lawyers, Anu Patel and Neel Shivam who have represented Prasad since last July.

A spokesperson for Prasad's team, Sudesh Mishra, said they were confident of victory.

"Any regime that interferes with the rights of citizens must be held to account in a court of law," he said.

"And the arms of the state ought to protect and defend the human rights of all its citizens. This case is about the rule of law which underpins democracy and human rights in Fiji, and the rest of the world."

He said the issues raised by the human rights case were relevant to all Fijians, regardless of ethnicity.

Robertson has defended death row prisoners in the Caribbean and challenged abuses of government power in several countries. He is the author of books such as The Justice Game and Crimes Against Humanity.

Williams in the Anthony Mason Professor Law at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, and author of Human Rights under the Australian Constitution.

According to the Sunday Post, interim Attorney-General Alipate Qetaki remained tight-lipped about state lawyers but said everything was set for the hearing.

National security forces were also confident of their operation Sasabai to monitor and control security in the country.

Security has been stepped up in the capital, and throughout the rest of the country.

Army spokesman Lieutenant Ilaisa Tagitupou said yesterday heavily equipped soldiers and police had been stationed around the old Supreme Court building and the capital.

"Security remains paramount. The military and police are working together to ensure that everything remains under control," he said.

In an editorial today, the Sunday Times said: "People do not really have to get excited about tomorrow."

The newspaper said the public needed to be clear that the Court of Appeal ruling would not be made "tomorrow or most likely this month".

People should not be agitated; children should go to school, workers to work and the public service should continue normally.

"Politicians fanning the flames of fear and suspicion should be ashamed of themselves. They are cowards," the Sunday Times said.



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