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Statement By A-G: "EU Mission Failed Miserably"

Press Statement
Mr Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum
Jul 15, 2008, 09:15

PRESS STATEMENT BY THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL, MINISTER FOR JUSTICE, ELECTORAL REFORM, PUBLIC ENTERPRISES AND ANTI-CORRUPTION, MR AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM

As you are aware under the Cotonou Agreement we had consultation with the TROIKA Mission which was here a few weeks ago.

It had been decided by the EU that instead of one single TROIKA mission carrying out all aspects a fact finding, a separate mission be sent to inter alia assess and analyse the rule of law in Fiji.

To have any credibility such an assessment and analysis would require impartiality, neutrality and avoidance of prejudgement.

Unfortunately, however these characteristics have been absent in this Mission on the Rule of Law.

Government has continuously maintained that any Mission be it the EU, be it the International Bar Association, be it Law Asia or be it the United Nations Special Rapporteur must, to have any credibility and carry out the assessment on a fact finding and completely neutral and impartial basis.

To date only the Law Asia Mission appears to have complied with this requirement.

Unfortunately the current EU Mission appears to have failed miserably in this respect.

The Chief Justice last Friday wrote to the European Union Ambassador highlighting the lack of impartiality, prejudgement and slanted nature of the Mission in particular as displayed by Sir Andrew Leggatt. The Acting Chief Justice noted that the English judge was openly hostile and sarcastic. He also noted that the panel in particular the English judge wanted to discuss matters that were sub-judice despite being reminded of it.

Unfortunately, the panel also did not appear to be focused on the future. In my experience the panel also spent a large amount of time discussing the election time-table which was most inappropriate given that it was a Mission to assess the Rule of Law. Indeed the Election time-table had already been discussed with the TROIKA Mission a few weeks ago.

Indeed the TROIKA Mission a few weeks ago as has been remarked was polite and maintained the appearance of objectivity. In comparison as has been remarked in the Acting Chief Justice’s letter this Mission on the rule of law was openly hostile and displayed (particularly from Sir Andrew Leggatt) no appearance of any objectivity or trying to understand our problems and possible solutions and support.

I will distribute a copy of the letter of the Acting Chief Justice. I spoke to the European Ambassador on Friday after I received this letter and he had asked me not to go to the media. However, in light of the enormity of the matter and the fact that a EU Press Statement on Saturday referred to matters of Rule of Law has made it imperative that this matters are brought into the public domain. I did inform the EU Office before coming here that I am going to the press and to inform the people of Fiji.

Let me reiterate Government’s position in respect of the Rule of Law. Government has not interfered with the functioning of the Judiciary which would in any way compromise the integrity or independence of the Judiciary. Government welcomes Missions to Fiji which are indeed impartial and have not prejudged matters. This position of ours which has been the same for the past 18 months or so and has not and will not change. For any mission or indeed any individual to carry out an assessment of the Rule of Law must be based on impartiality, non-prejudgment, non politicization, non interference by the Heads of Mission in Fiji and very simply but most importantly it must be based on honesty, have credibility and integrity.

The Government will protect as it must the integrity and independence of the Judiciary by ensuring that no false allegations are made against it.

The Government has continuously maintained that the Judiciary is independent. Indeed, it is Government’s position that the Judiciary is now truly independent when compared to what used to happen prior to 5 December 2006.

The people of Fiji cannot and should not be lectured by the metropolitan powers on the rule of law and what constitutes proper behavior when their sponsored missions and diplomats breach and do not adhere to the fundamental principles of natural justice, honesty, impartiality and integrity.

Despite this unfortunate mission, we will continue to engage with the EU, who we believe have been comparatively the most constructive in their engagement.

ENDS

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