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Ratu Mara's 'resignation' early issue in court

Ratu Mara's 'resignation' early issue in court

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SUVA (Pacnews): The issue of whether the former President of Fiji Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara did resign when the military declared martial law more than one week after the country's government was ousted in a coup was raised at the start of today's sitting of the country's Court of Appeal, Pacnews reports.

Sir Ian Barker, one of the five presiding judges, wanted to know whether the government's team of lawyers had a copy of Ratu Sir Kamisese's resignation. He also wanted to know the provisions of how a President should resign.

PACNEWS understands that while a copy of Ratu Sir Kamisese's application for pension as "a retired President" is part of the government's team affidavits, they do not have a copy of his resignation letter as such. In addition, the government team has not been able to provide an affidavit by Ratu Sir Kamisese, an omission that the respondents will definitely seize and capitalise on.

Government team leader Nicholas Blake, a QC from London, had to stop his arguments to respond to Sir Ian's questions. The judge's questions were prompted by Blake's reading of one of two affidavits of Fiji's military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

According to Bainimarama's affidavit, Ratu Sir Kamisese wanted to relinquish his executive authority as President at the end of a security briefing on board a naval boat on Suva harbour on May 29 last year at about "1900 hours."

Blake told the court Bainimarama had briefed the then President of the security situation and the coup makers' defiance of the decision of the Great Council of Chiefs and the general breakdown in law and order.

Blake's submission took up the entire hour of the morning session, in which he gave a brief history of Fiji since it was ceded to Britain in 1874 to the events before and after May 19 last year. He also gave a rundown of the number of decrees issued, first by the military government and later the interim administration.

He submitted that the government's submissions on its appeal against High Court Judge Anthony Gates' ruling that the 1997 Constitution was still valid and that the pre-May 19 parliament ought to be reconvened to elect a government of national unity are based on four basic questions.

One argument is that Commodore Bainimarama created a "new legal order" when he assumed executive authority on May 29 and "abrogated the 1997 Constitution."

He also based his submission the doctrine of effective governance, in that the interim government "enjoys popular support" and hardly any effective "resistance" from the populace.

The start of today's hearing was delayed for an hour as the five judges had to hear "last minute applications" in chamber. One such application was an application by ousted Attorney General Anand Singh for leave to be a party in the current legal proceedings.

The leave was granted by Singh could not sit in among the respondents' lawyers as he has yet to pay his "legal fees" for this year. Another lawyer had to sit in on Singh's behalf.

Security was tight in and around the court building today, with police and fully armed soldiers manning roads leading into the building. Only those with government-issued identification cards were allowed into the courthouse.

The courtroom was packed today with representatives of political parties, human rights groups, members of the diplomatic corps and the news media, including a handful from overseas.

The Commonwealth has also dispatched one of its lawyers to sit in the hearing as an observer. The hearing is expected to continue for the rest of the week. ... PNS (ENDS)



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