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More On The Chandrika Prasad Judgment

Issue No: 205; 16 November 2000

The elected Prime Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, has welcomed the ruling, which states that the Government ousted in the May 19 coup is still legally in power.

Mr Chaudhry has recently returned to Fiji after a tour of Australia, India, Britain and the United States to seek international support for his reinstatement.

The decision places the interim government, appointed by the military, under legal pressure to resign.

Local radio says it is not expected to do so and says Army commanders will almost certainly launch an appeal.

The successful case was led by Australian barrister and constitutional lawyer George Williams.

Dr Williams says the ruling offers some much needed optimism.

"Well it's a very major development in Fiji because for the first time in a long time we're seeing some sense that maybe we can return to the rule of law," he said.

"Fiji has been dominated by who's had the most guns rather than what the proper lawful thing to do is and this decision offers a ray of hope."

New Zealand says Fiji's High Court ruling imposes more pressure for a quick return to democracy.

The ruling has also been welcomed by the Citizen's Constitutional Forum, the Fiji Trades Union Congress, the ngo's, religious organizations, and all political parties except the SVT, the UGP and the nationalists. According to a Radio Fiji report today, the United General Party, the SVT's Coalition partner stated that it still supported the Qarase regime, and that if the Qarase regime was removed, there would be more instability in Fiji.

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The CCF's Rev. Akuila Yabaki stated that the Qarase cabinet should be prepared to resign. He stated that the military and police should support the restoration of the 1997 Constitution. The CCF also called on the citizens of Fiji "to respect the law and refrain from any illegal acts." Yabaki also called on the indigenous Fijians who had orchestrated the events leading to 19 May, to "not to arouse indigenous Fijians to engage in unlawful activities"

END 16 November 2000

NZ, Australia Welcome Gates' Ruling

Issue No: 204; 16 November 2000

Australia and New Zealand have both welcomed the ruling of Justice Gates in the Chandrika Prasad case.

The New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, says her Government has always viewed the interim administration imposed by the Fiji military as illegitimate.

Ms Clark says the finding that Fiji's 1990 Constitution is still in force shows the interim government must drop its slow schedule for returning to democracy.

"I think the sooner the government, unconstitutional as it is, in Fiji comes up with a clear timetable to return to constitutional democracy, the better," she said.

"There's no path for Fiji in going down the track of the late 1980s, being an international pariah and treating one part of its citizenry as less than equal."

A statement from the office of the New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister, Phil Goff, states that the New Zealand has welcomed the decision by Fiji's High Court that the country's 1997 Constitution remains valid and that the properly elected parliament be recalled. Goff stated:

"Justice Gates' decision that the abrogation of the Constitution after the May 19 coup was invalid and that Parliament is still in being allows Fiji the opportunity to move forward.

"Fiji's instability and lack of legitimate government following the coup has caused huge damage to Fiji socially and economically.

He further stated:

"Justice Gates decision provides the opportunity now to make progress, if key players including the Interim Government and the military are prepared to take it up.

"For security and stability to be restored, there must be the acceptance of sorting out difficulties by democratic process, not the use of violence.

The full text of the statement is at: http://www.pcgov.org.fj/docs_o/goff_stm_gates_15nov.htm

The Australian Prime Minister John Howard praised the Fiji court ruling, which upholds the 1997 Constitution. He says the Fiji High Court decision means the elected Parliament, overthrown in May, remains Fiji's sovereign authority. He further says that Fiji's military and the interim government should now respect the court ruling. He stated: "It would only further aggravate the outside world's view of Fiji if the military were not do so."

According to Radio Australia, Howard stated: "here you have the judicial system of Fiji working and saying that a Parliament elected democratically by the people as the sovereign authority. People defying that are defying the rule of law and there is no way that Australia would do other than condemn any such defiance."

The Australian Opposition Labour Party also welcomed the judgment. In a statement released yesterday, the Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Laurie Brereton, stated: "The reported ruling of Justice Gates is a positive development in Fiji's constitutional crisis", Mr Brereton said. "It is most welcome to see the rule of law defended in Fiji. Today's High Court decision underlines the importance of all parties seeking a solution to the political impasse through the framework of the 1997 Constitution. This is the approach supported by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group."

Brereton's statement is found at: http://www.alp.org.au. It is also reproduced as: http://www.pcgov.org.fj/docs_o/brereton_stm_gates_15nov.htm

END 16 November 2000

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