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Qarase regime declared illegal

Qarase regime declared illegal Issue No: 535 1 March 2001

The full Fiji Court of Appeal, comprising 5 judges headed by Justice Sir Maurice Casey, today delivered a summary of a lengthy judgement on the regime's appeal against the High Court decision that the 1997 Constitution is still the supreme law in Fiji.

The summary stated that the appeal was transformed into a rehearing of the case given the massive volume of evidence produced for the court.

The court also stated that it had examined the alleged perception of the indigenous Fijians on their understanding of the electoral provisions and the 1997 Constitution. It stated that even if the election result were to be declared on the first-past-the-post count, the People's Coalition would still be the government. The court then stated that the regime had not provided any proof of the perception it alleged.

On the Constitution, it stated that the Court of Appeal owed its existence to the 1997 Constitution.

The Court further stated that Justice Gates was correct in stating that the doctrine of necessity can not be used to abrogate the Constitution, or validate the interim regime.

The court, however, stated that it is the law that a regime can be validated as legal if it has firm control and demonstrates acquiescence of the population.

Here, it said, the regime did not provide any direct evidence of acquiescence. It provided a lot of affidavits from officials but these constituted only evidence of passive acquiescence - that the executive arm of the country was functioning. The Court stated that in the context of Fiji, evidence of such passive acquiescence can not be accepted. It concluded that the regime has not proved that it has the acquiescence of the people generally. The burden of proof was on the regime. It then concluded that the court can not recognise the regime as a legal government.

The court then made its declarations that the 1997 constitution is still the supreme law of Fiji and was not abrogated; that the Parliament has not been dissolved and that it was only prorogued for 6 months till November, and that the Office of the President has been vacant since 15 December.

The full judgement will be posted on this site as soon as it is available.

Meanwhile, the Acting President will be having a press conference at 4.30pm today. Qarase has also scheduled his press conference for 4.30pm today. It is also believed that the top military officials are also meeting now.

END 1 March

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