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Early election looms – Fiji

Early election looms – Fiji

24 February 2001

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Election by April depending on Appeals Court ruling

SUVA (Pasifik Nius): Watch for the Fiji Islands to go to the polls
within the next few months, perhaps as early as April, reports the Daily

But all will depend on how the Court of Appeal validates the legitimacy
of interim regime Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase's government.

The five appellate judges are expected to make known their decision next
Thursday on whether the 1997 [multiracial] constitution is still valid
despite it being abrogated by military commander Commodore Frank
Bainimarama on May 29 last year.

The interim government was yesterday quietly weighing its options.

"We have a fair idea of what to do," was all a senior government
official could say last night.

However, he indicated the government would be guided by the court after
its four-day hearing last week.

Meanwhile, the internal refugee farmer Chandrika Prasad, who filed the
original High Court human rights case and won a landmark decision last
November ruling that the 1997 constitution was still supreme law, said
he did not care what government was in power - as long as his human
rights were protected.

Prasad's spokesman Dr Sudesh Mishra yesterday told the Fiji Times that
the courts had been asked that human rights issues be considered as
fundamental to the case.

Dr Mishra said a quick return to democratic governance was "just one of
the aspects of his case".

"But good governance and respect for human rights were linked in the
minds of the international coimmunity," Dr Mishra said.

Dr Mishra also reaffirmed that the Prasad case was not linked to any
political party. Nor had legal counsel Geoffrey Robertson, QC, any link
with a political party.

He rejected earlier reports that Robertson was acting for both Prasad
and the Fiji Labour Party, the elected party which won a landslide
victory in the May 1999 election.



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