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Fiji Chief Justice Gives Directives On Courts

Issue No: 618 22 March 2001

The Chief Justice Sir Timoci Tuivaga has again issued a directive to the Lautoka High Court to not to accept on its own any case involving the 1997 Constitution.

Under law, the High Courts can, and must, accept cases filed before them. There are three high courts in Fiji, one in Suva, one in Lautoka, and one in Labasa.

The directive states that the Lautoka Court should consult the Suva Office before registering any case which might involve constitutional issues.

According to today's Fiji Times, the directive has been rejected by Lautoka High Court judge, Justice Anthony Gates who wrote to the CJ saying that his instructions were not right. The paper reports that the CJ wrote back to Justice Gates saying that he was being disrespectful.

The new directive follows numerous earlier attempts by the Chief Justice at judge shopping.

The CJ was heavily criticised for being involved in drafting military decrees and for advising that the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution was lawful.

The involvement of the CJ in not only the processes which left the 1997 Constitution purportedly abrogated, as well as in actions which undermine the impartiality of the judiciary, has left the nation stunned.

The Fiji Law Society has claimed that if the directive was true, then it was contrary to the rights of an individual and could be seen as curtailing an individual's constitution right. Law Society President Chen Bun Young stated: "In the present climate the courts should be the last institution to give the impression that it is attempting to erode an individual's constitutional right to have access to a court of law".

It is now certain that the nation's judiciary and the institutions responsible for maintaining law and order has totally collapsed.

The nation is now plagued with: * unethical conduct of certain magistrates and judges, including the Chief Justice;

* incompetence of the public prosecution office,

* a corrupt and inefficient police force headed by a Commissioner who himself was alleged to have been involved with terrorists and who was freed of the charges under suspicious circumstances;

* government lawyers not being consulted by the regime, and the inability of the government lawyers to take an independent stand defending the interests of the state;

* certain sections of the lawyer community in private practice advising the regime that court decisions should be rejected;

* inability of the Fiji Law Society to effectively deal with the misconduct of its members and decisively address the undermining of the law by officers of law.

The greatest cause of the collapse of law and order and the judiciary has been the politicisation of the judiciary and other organs responsible for law and order. Such politicisation has invariably involved racist, especially anti-ethnic Indian, rhetoric and action. The influence of elements of provincialism has also contributed to the malaise.

END


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