#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2009-04-12

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sources: Shameem and Mataitoga frontrunners





Two names keep surfacing regarding the appointment of a new Chief Justice for Fiji - Nazhat Shameem and Isikeli Mataitoga.

Talk in Suva this week was again focused on the two, with popular opinion agreeing that the military regime had them in mind for the key role.

The rumour mill persisted that both of the high court judges had been approached again this weekend and that they had both rejected the offer.

Sources suggest the interim government is running out of time, perhaps even getting desperate, as it works to announce judicial appointments on Monday.

The new Chief Justice is expected to be one of the appointments announced then.

The judiciary were sacked by the President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, after he abrogated the country's Constitution, over a week ago.

The attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed-Kaiyum, said on Friday the government hoped to name some of their new judges on Monday and to have the courts open again on Tuesday.

Sources: President "fooled" into abrogating Constitution

Coupfourpointfive has been told by a well-placed source there's evidence to suggest the ageing president, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, may not have known the full scale of what he was doing the day he abrogated the Constituton.

Our source says he has evidence of a conversation the 89-year old head of state had with his matani-vanua (traditional spokesman) that Good Friday, April the 10th.

The conversation is said to have taken place after he made the announcement, when he retired to his room on the first floor of Government House, accompanied by the matani-vanua.

It's said Ratu Iloilo sat on his bed, his matani-vanua on a chair, and that the latter asked Ratu Iloilo in the Fijian language if he was serious about throwing away the Constitution.

A stunned Ratu Josefa then stated “huh” and continued to say, in Fijian, seqa, seqa, seqa; no, no, no, “that wasn’t what Rupeni ‘Nacewa’ (the personal secretary) gave me to read”.

The matani-vanua is said to have replied in Fijian, “But Turaga that is what you just did”- throw away the Constitution.

The source claims Ratu Iloilo's wife, the First Lady Adi Kavu, came upstairs and ordered the matani-vanua to leave the room and that the matani-vanua was not seen at Government House until this Friday, when Ratu Epeli Nailatikau was appointed Vice-President.

It's widely believed the military regime has been using the misguided president to rubber-stamp the deeds of Frank Bainimarama - first with the Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, and now with attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

It's believed the aged Ratu Iloilo was employed to rubber-stamp several of the regime's treasonous acts, includuing the overthrow of Laisenia Qarase’s Multi-Party Government.

Ratu Iloilo then went on to bless the People’s Charter, a document spearheaded by Johnny Comelately's wanting to cash in on the interim regime’s gravy train.

Regarding the conversation between him and his spokesperson on Good Friday, our source says that never in traditional protocol has the matani-vanua been separated from Ratu Iloilo, as he was the day the Constitution was abrogated.

He added that staff at Government House this week have seen a black dog prowling the building and the compound.

According to Fiji history, the people of Vanua of Vuda, see this as a sign their chief is nearing his end and that Ratu Ilioilo's predecessor, Tui Vuda, Ratu Josefa Tavaiqia, passed on not long after a black dog was sighted.

Editor's note: Other news circulating this week about Ratu Josefa Ilioilo included a story about his village, Vuda, in the province of Ba wanting him to come home. Villagers have been upset about the way he's been portrayed in the media and the abuse that's been hurled at him for abrogating the Constitution and say they want him to come home.

High security at QEB, soldiers not happy

The Queen Elizabeth Barracks in Nabua was under very tight security today. Sources within the RFMF told Coupfourpointfive they are unhapy about the retirement age of 55, imposed upon them through State Services Decree.

The entrances were heavily guarded with increased personnel in full battle gear as a meeting was held with army commander Frank Bainimarama.

Sources say they are fully behind Land Force Commander Colonel Pita Driti who is angry that soldiers (including him) will have to retire at the age of 55 while their boss (Bainimarama) will retire at the age of 65 as stated under the Decree.

Bainimarama was to be told that the soldiers had collectively decided that this was unfair and unacceptable. Driti is reportedly incensed that he will have to go at 55.

"Why should I retire at 55", he reportedly thundered to some of his men.

The sources say that in the event the Decree is not changed, then their demand is for every single soldier, officer and the Commander to retire at the age of 55.

Bainimarama was to have been told that he should quit as army commander and become a politician if he wants to retire at 65.

Bainimarama is just 9 days out from turning 55 - on Monday 27 April. According to Wikipedia he was born on 27 April 1954.

UNESCO Director-General concerned about media crackdown in Fiji

The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, today voiced grave concern about the suspension of press freedom in Fiji under thirty-day Public Emergency Regulations that came into force on 10 April.

According to the new regulations, editors are not allowed to publish or broadcast any material that shows the military in an unfavourable light. Sensitive stories must be approved by government officials before publication and media organizations ignoring these directives may be shut down.

“I am gravely concerned about press freedom in Fiji,” the Director-General declared. “The basic human right of freedom of expression, which underpins press freedom, is essential for democracy, good governance and rule of law. I urge the authorities to allow open debate that is always essential if lasting solutions to difficulties and disagreements are to be found.”

“Depriving people of news and information about events that affect them only breeds fear and suspicions. Such measures will not promote a solution to the nation’s social and political problems,” Mr Matsuura added.

The Public Emergency Regulations were proclaimed after Army Chief Commodore, Frank Bainimarama, was reinstated as Prime Minister, and the President of Fiji, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, abolished the Constitution and dismissed judges who said that the island nation’s military government was illegal.

UNESCO is the only United Nations agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom. Article 1 of its Constitution requires the Organization to “further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations.” To realize this the Organization is requested to “collaborate in the work of advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples, through all means of mass communication and to that end recommend such international agreements as may be necessary to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Analysis of Administration of Justice Decree

The Administration of Justice Decree 2009 appears as an extra-ordinary gazette of Thursday April 16, 2009. It is Decree Number 9.

The Decree has been backdated to come into force on April 10, 2009, the day the Constitution was abrogated. This doesn’t make any sense as for the next one month all Courts will be closed as announced by the regime this week.

Judicial Services Commission

No 16 of the Decree establishes the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) that consists of:

(a)The Chief Justice, who is to be its Chairperson
(b)The President of the Court of Appeal
(c)A legal practitioner with not less than 15 years experience to be appointed by the President on the advice of the Attorney-General
(d) A person not being a legal practitioner, appointed by the President on the advice of the Attorney-General

16 (2) states the quorum of the Judicial Service Commission shall consist of the Chairperson and one other member. That means the CJ or the Court of Appeal President; CJ and a lawyer or the CJ and a person not being a legal practitioner can make judicial appointments.

Furthermore the Chief Registrar is to the Commission’s Secretary. This means former army lawyer Ana Rokomokoti, who was appointed as a magistrate by the regime after the coup and is now the Chief Registrar will be the Commission’s Secretary.

The Decree is different from the Constitution. Section 131 of the Constitution that lawfully established the Judicial Service Commission defines the membership as : -

(a) the Chief Justice who is to be its Chairperson
(b) the Chairperson of Public Service Commission; and
(c) the President of the Fiji Law Society.

From three members the membership of the Commission has been increased to four. Most seriously, the Fiji Law Society has been totally excluded from the decision making process of appointments to the Bench. Also out is the Public Service Commission Chairperson.

Number 17 of the Decree states the Chief Justice and Court of Appeal President are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the JSC.

Under Section 132 of the Constitution the Chief Justice is appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister following consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.

32(2) of the Constitution states that the appointment of judges of the Supreme Court and Justices of Appeal including Court of Appeal President are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the JSC following consultation by it with the Minister (AG and Justice Minister) and the relevant Sector Standing Committee – which has been the Justice Law and Order Committee.

Retirement age of judges

Number 21(1) of the Decree states the term of appointment of the Chief Justice, President of the Court of Appeal or a judge of the Supreme Court expires upon his or her reaching the age of 70.

21(2) of the Decree states the term of appointment of puisne judges expires upon them reaching the age of 65. But 21(3) states the above rules do not prevent the President from appointment a Chief Justice, Court of Appeal President, a Supreme Court judge, a Justice of Appeal Court or a puisne judge of the High Court, who have reached the retiring ages as stipulated in 21(1) and 21(2) from being appointed on a fixed term contract for which the applicable retiring age shall not apply.

This means that in the event Judge John Byrne or Judge Davendra Pathik are eligible for appointment. Pathik is already over 78.

On the other hand Section 137 (1) of the Constitution states that the term of appointment of a Chief Justice, the President of Court of Appeal, judge of the Appeal Court or judge of the Supreme Court expires upon him or her reaching the age of 70. 137(2) states the President of Appeals Court, a Judge of the Appeal Court or a judge of the Supreme Court may be appointed for a term or one or more sessions of the Court concerned upon reaching the age of 70.

137(3) states the term of a puisne judge of the High Court expires at the age of 65.

137(4) states that a puisne judge can be appointed for a minimum term of 4 years and maximum term of 7 years but the appointment CANNOT be extended beyond the age of 65.

Transition

23(1) of the Decree revokes all appointments made under the Constitution – pursuant to the Fiji Constitution Amendment Act Revocation Decree 2009 and Revocation of Appointment of Judicial Officers Decree 2009.

21(2) states all proceedings started in the Courts before the abrogation of the Constitution and not yet determined shall continue on , with the exceptions being 7 types of court cases outlined in 21(3).

21(3) wholly terminates the following types of Court proceedings that are yet to be determined – started in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. This means: -

(a) Cannot challenge the validity of any Promulgations, Decrees and Declarations made between December 5, 2006 to April 9 2009, on any ground whatsoever

(b) Cannot challenge any decision of the President and the Head of the State made between December 5 2006 to April 9 2009o any grounds whatsoever

(c) Cannot challenge any decision of a Minister made between December 5 2006 and April 9 2009 on any ground whatsoever

(d) Cannot challenge any decision made by he Minister responsible for Immigration, the Permanent Secretary for Immigration, Director of Immigration & employees of the Immigration Department from December 5 2006 to April 9 2009, to remove a person from Fiji, on any ground whatsoever

(e) Cannot challenge any decision of the President, or the Executive or the Government or employees of the Government to terminate any employment (whether in a public office or not) between December 5 2006 and January 7 2007, on any ground whatsoever

(f) Cannot challenge any decision of the Judicial Service Commission made between January 7 2007 and April 9 2009 (including any challenges to the composition of Judicial Service Commission) on any ground whatsoever, or any decision made by a judicial officer made in administrative capacity, including the making of the Rules of any Court or any directions, on any ground whatsoever; and

(g) Cannot challenge any decision of the Executive or of the Government or of the employees of the Government made between December 5 2006 and April 9 2009, on the grounds of being inconsistent with or contrary to the Constitution.


This means all cases challenging the legality of the interim government have been nullified. The regime’s intention to appeal the Fiji Court of Appeal ruling that ruled that the events of December 5 2006 were illegal is no longer necessary.

Persons like Jagannath Sami (ousted Sugar Cane Growers Council CEO), Ratu Sakiusa Tuisolia (deposed CEO of Airports Fiji Ltd), FNPF ousted CEO Olota Rokovunisei and his deputy Foana Nemani to name a few can no longer challenge their terminations.

The judiciary has basically been turned upside down by the regime. On 4th January 2007, Frank Bainimarama while returning Executive Authority to the President Iloilo gave 25 reasons for executing the coup against Laisenia Qarase’s Multi-Party Government. Reason number one given by Bainimarama was “the persistent and deliberate of persons supporting the unlawful takeover of Government in 2000 in the Qarase led SDL Governments of 2001 and 2006”.

Bainimarama’s 2nd reason was “the double-speak of SDL Government in saying they supported the rule of law but freed or facilitating the freeing of coup convicts on extra-mural supervision”. He said “SDL made mockery of or justice system and fundamentally undermined the integrity of our judiciary and rule of law”.

What his regime has done through this Decree is unprecedented in Fiji’s 22 year coup plagued history. The regime has put to shame the scales of justice. They have outlawed through illegal means all legal redress cases of citizens affected since the start of the 4th coup.

Iloilo’s actions smack of hypocrisy and double-speak. In accepting the return of Executive Authority from Bainimarama, he established 11 mandates for the interim regime. The first of these was “to continue to uphold the Constitution”. Why then abrogate the Constitution following consultations with Bainimarama.

Fiji is now becoming another Burma. The RFMF is consolidating power by suppressing all fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens.

FCA deplores Fiji media restircitons

The Foreign Correspondents’ Association, Australia & South Pacific (FCA) deplores the Fijian regime’s suppression of freedom of the media and condemns the expulsion of foreign correspondents from the country.

The FCA fully supports local and international journalists in Fiji trying to do their jobs under very difficult circumstances.

The FCA is committed to continue reporting on the Australia and South Pacific region fairly and honestly, as FCA members have done for more than 25 years since the Association began.

New judges to be sworn in Monday

Fiji's Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Kaiyum said a new judiciary will be appointed on Monday.

The judiciary were sacked and their positions revoked after the President Ratu Josefa Iloilo abrogated the Constitution a week ago.

He said a lot of applications were received for the new positions, despite international condemnation.

Mr Kaiyum declined to comment on who the new judges would be.

Pacific Freedom Forum condemns Fiji

The Pacific Freedom Forum condemns the continued harassment and detention of Fiji-based journalists, including those filing for or providing information to overseas news outlets.

Last night’s jail stop for Pacnews/AP journalist Pita Ligaiula will hopefully end today. Ligaiula was filing for Associated Press and based at the PacNews Secretariat in Suva, and his detention under the emergency decree regulations occurred alongside the reported harassment of other journalists filing for outlets including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Radio New Zealand.

Leading Fiji journalists have been ‘briefed’ by Ministry of Information officials to put a positive spin on their stories, or face the consequences.

"This bullying behaviour on the part of Fiji authorities will only serve to still further focus attention on that country's situation, because the story will still, eventually be told," Pacific Freedom Forum chair Susuve Laumaea says.

"The reported invitation to 'approved' journalists - whose prior reportage on Fiji will be vetted prior to issuing visas - to come and tell 'positive'stories is ridiculous," he says.

"Local and overseas journalists were, like Pita Ligaiula, trying to provide balanced and accurate reports about Fiji, and all the current Fiji authorities can do is harass and attempt to silence them."

"Locking up reporters such as Fiji TV's Edwin Nand, whose interview with deported ABC reporter, Sean Dorney, was seen worldwide, and now AP's Pita Ligaiula, who works from PacNews and whose reports were also published globally, only demonstrates that those responsible need help and training in what real journalism is all about," says PFF co-chair Monica Miller.

"The increased pressure on our media colleagues in Fiji has only added to the credibility and respect they have earned from regional and international colleagues; and renewed solidarity amongst Pacific journalists," she says.

"PacNews is produced by the Pacific Islands News Association, itself a long running regional media and journalism support and training organization, which owes no loyalty to anybody except to its members and affiliates, and to the principles of fair, accurate, and balanced journalism."

"The continuing attacks on the Fiji media by the local authorities have been and continue to be condemned globally, and every instance of harassment and intimidation of journalists is being reported. PFF continues to encourage a return to due process by the current regime, by taking their issues through the complaints channels of the Fiji Media Council."

Nailatikau is Fiji's new VP



As predicted yesterday, former Fiji military commander and minister in Fiji's interim government, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, has this morning been appointed Vice-President of Fiji.

Ratu Epeli, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, was Minister for Indigenous Affairs in the existing interim government led by Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.

Fijilive reports that his appointment, made a short while ago at a swearing-in ceremony at Government House, is under the eighth decree issued by President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo following the abrogation of Fiji's 1997 Constitution last week.

Appointments to the positions of President and Vice-President were traditionally made by Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs.

The website says the position of Vice-President became vacant after the military takeover of December 2006 and was previously held by Bau chief and lawyer Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi.

Ratu Epeli was army commander from June 1982 until May 1987 when Sitiveni Rabuka staged the first coup as the 3rd highest ranking officer.

He was also Ambassador then High Commissioner to London and former Speaker of the Lower Hose from 2001 to March 2006.

He was rejected by the GCC as VP nominee in April 2007 following which the GCC was suspended and basically dissolved.

*There's no word on the other appointments Coupfourpointfive was told about yesterday.

Journalist Ligaiula still in custody


The PacNews and ABC stringer, Pita Ligaiula, remains in custody after being escorted out of the newsroom yesterday by two police officers and a senior officer from the Ministry of Information.

Authorities are said to be unhappy about stories published in several
Australian newspapers yesterday.

He is the ninth journalist to be questioned or expelled from Fiji since the drama began.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Trustees sacked from Govt-controlled UTOF



The three trustees sacked from the Unit Trust of Fiji, all had major qualifications.

Gilbert Veisamasama (pictured right) was an economist who'd worked for the Fiji Reserve Bank, Mesake Nawari was a University of the South Pacific economist and a former CEO of Fiji TV, and Mere Rakuita was a lawyer with the office of the attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaium.

The Unit, or UTOF as it's known locally, is understood to hold a significant amount of money in trust ($90,000,000) for the small businesses and investors it represents.

Bloggers have recently suggested that while the interim government's nominal shareholding in the company is just $50,0000, (a value of $250,000) it may try to claim the entire fund.

New state officers to be sworn in tomorrow



New officers of the state, appointed by the Fiji military regime, are expected to be sworn in tomorrow morning at 10am.

There's speculation over the full list but our sources in Fiji say one would have to be Ana Rokomokoti, who was named the new Chief Registrar, yesterday.

Commentators have also suggested Ratu Epeli Nailatikau (pictured) will be sworn in as vice-president, under Fiji's new legal order.

Observers note the new State Services Decree has diluted the qualifications of the Electoral Commission Chairman and Elections Supervisor. They do not need to be a lawyer, qualified to be a judge of the High Court of Fiji, as required by the Constitution.

Sources also suggest a two per cent pay cut is imminent once the new Public Service Commission chairman is sworn in. That chairman is tipped to be incumbent, Mohammed Yunussh.

Coupfourpointfive has also been told Felicity Heffernan is on her way back to New Zealand.

Ms Heffernan was appointed Elections Supervisor by Fiji's Constitutional Offices Commission, last year, for the planned 2009 general elections, which of course, have failed to happen.

BREAKING: More sackings taking place

Reports coming out of Suva say three trustees from the Unit Trust of Fiji have been sacked.

They've been named as Gilbert Veisamasama, Mesake Nawari and Mere Rakuita.

More to come.

Akuila Yabaki: Other laws still exist

The Citizens Constitutional Forum (CCF) is advising Fiji citizens that in spite of the purported abrogation of the 1997 Constitution, other laws still exist.

“The current interim regime is not recognising the existence of the 1997 Constitution," says CCF chief executive, the Rev Akuila Yabaki. "According to Chapter 15 of the 1997 Constitution, it can only be varied or replaced through the procedures outlined in that Chapter.”

“Last week’s Court of Appeal ruling stated that until any promulgations or decrees are tested in a court of law, people should consider them lawful and valid.
"CCF therefore advises citizens to respect any promulgations or decrees until they are declared invalid by a court."

Rev Yabaki says the human rights of citizens continue to exist because they are guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was proclaimed in 1948.

“In order for human rights to be adequately protected, there must be a fully functioning, independent judiciary in place,” he says.

CCF says the following human rights may not be derogated, even in a state of emergency:
- Right to Life
- Freedom from Cruel or Degrading Treatment
- Freedom from Unreasonable Searches or Seizure
- Rights of Arrested, Detained or Charged People
- Right to a Fair Trial and Access to Courts or Tribunals
- Freedom of Religion and Belief
- Right to Vote by Secret Ballot
- Right to Equality Before the Law and not to be Discriminated Against
- Right to an Education
- Protection Against Compulsory Acquisition of Property.

New state officers expeced to be sworn in tomorrow morning

New officers of the state, appointed by the Fiji military regime, are apparently going to be sworn in tomorrow morning at 10am.

There's speculation over the full list but sources in Fiji say one of them is Ana Rokomokoti, who was named the new Chief Registrar, yesterday.

Some commentators have also suggested that Ratu Epeli Nailatikau will be sworn in as vice-president, under Fiji's new legal order.

Observers have also noted the new State Services Decree has diluted the qualifications of the Electoral Commission Chairman and Elections Supervisor. They do not need to be a lawyer, qualified to be a judge of the High Court of Fiji, as required by the Constitution.

Our Fiji sources also suggest that a two per cent pay cut is imminent once the new Public Service Commission chairman is sworn in. That chairman is tipped to be incumbent, Mohammed Yunussh.

Coupfourpointfive has also been told that Felicity Heffernan is on her way back to New Zealand. Ms Heffernan was appointed Elections Supervisor by Fiji's Constitutional Offices Commission, last year, for the planned 2009 general elections, which of course, have failed to happen.

Correspondent: We were told to obey new legal order

One of the journalists summoned to the Ministry of Information this afternoon says they were told to toe the line otherwise the emergency regulations would be extended a further 30 days.

Matelita Ragogo says she and the other journalists who were spoken to, were told that if they were not careful the hardline censorship of the press would continue.

"We were told that if we spoke or reported negatively about the interim government, then they would have no choice but to extend the Public Emergency Regulations for another 30 days, " Ms Ragogo said.

She added that the Deputy Permanent Secretary for Information, Setaleki Tale, warned them about obeying the rules under "the new legal order".

ITUC urges Fiji to Restore Democracy

The International Trade Union Congress has expressed grave concerns that the Fijian President Josefa Iloilo has reinstated the government, despite the Court having ruled it as illegitimate.

In a statement just released, the ITUC called on the Fiji regime to immediately lift the restrictions on the media, and ensure full respect for the rule of law and the Constitution,.

It also expressed its grave concern over the suspension of the Constitution and firing of the judges and called for urgent and full restoration of democracy and the return of civilian rule.

“The international trade union movement condemns the declaration of a state of emergency with police given powers to control the movement of people" said ITUC General Secretary, Guy Ryder.

Mr Ryder said freedom of the Press was a pillar of democracy and the restrictions that have been imposed are completely unacceptable and must be withdrawn.

"The regime should also publicly undertake to hold free and fair elections without delay to ensure democracy, and in order to avoid the further and deepening isolation of Fiji by the international community."

The ITUC represents 170 million workers in 312 affiliated national organisations from 157 countries and territories.

Bainimarama: "We need to change"

Released today at 12.25pm

Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama is determined to transform the nation into a new and better Fiji.

Speaking to army officers during a Commander’s parade at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks, PM Bainimarama reaffirmed the Republic of the Fiji Military Forces stand in ensuring Fiji’s political reforms and getting rid of all forms of corruption.

“What is actually taking place here is what transpired from our undertaking since 2000 in this military camp, some of our fellow soldiers were victims of that incident in November and I would like to remind you again that we need to change how Fiji is being led and I do not want what happened in May 2000 to be repeated.

“We have to change the attitude of leadership in 2006 and we have made our stand and elections has been reflected in the Charter that a new system of election should be implemented,elections will never take place with the current old system,” he said.

In emphasizing President Ratu Iloilo’s decision for Fiji to return to parliamentary democracy by September 2014, PM Bainimarama stressed that though 5 years may seem to be a long time it will in fact be short and changes in the form of quick implementation of programmes that are geared towards development at all levels ranging from local,provincial to national will be the immediate priority of Government.

“The Military needs to support the vanua and the Government as we implement all necessary changes before the 2014 elections,”Prime Minister Bainimarama said.

Journalists warned Emergency Regulations could be extended

Senior journalists and foreign correspondents in Fiji have been warned the Public Emergency Regulations could be extended for another 30 days, if the media continues to report negatively about the interim regime.

The journalists were ordered to a meeting at the Ministry of Information this afternoon where the rules were relayed.

A stringer for the Australian Associated Press and journalist for PacNews has been arrested without charge.

Pita Ligaiula was escorted out of his newsroom in Suva by two police officers and
has been put in a cell at the Central Police Station in Suva.

The AAP Wellington Branch in New Zealand have organised a lawyer from the Suva based law firm Munroy Leys for him.

Leweni: International media welcome

Government and Military spokesman Major Neumi Leweni today said that foreign media representatives are most welcome to visit Fiji under the current public emergency regulations.

“In fact, Government has not stopped foreign media representatives prior to the emergency regulations and even under the current circumstances. They are most welcome to visit Fiji.

"What is important is for them to understand Fiji’s situation and to report accurately and responsibly,” Major Leweni said.

“It is also important for the foreign media to come and see for themselves that life in the country is moving on as normal, and that the Government and the people of Fiji are together making significant changes for the better.”

He said the current procedure is that foreign media representatives apply firstly to the Permanent Secretary for Information specifically stating the reason and the dates of their visit.

The Permanent Secretary will endorse the applications based on how they have reported about Fiji in the past, if they have, or on the undertaking that they will report accurately and responsibly.

The applications are then forwarded to the Director of Immigration who will process them in accordance with normal immigration procedures.

Major Leweni said it is the current practice in any other country that foreign journalists who breach their visa conditions are asked to leave the country.

“Fiji is no exception,” he said.

“Journalists who have been deported breached their visa conditions and would not be allowed back into the country.”

Rumours still float of Shameem being made CJ

Rumours are still floating of Nazhat Shameem being made the new Chief Justice under Frank Bainimarama's regime.

Ms Shameem was appointed to the bench in 1997 and is the sister of Shaista Shameem from the Human Rights Commission.

Some blogsites are reporting that Colonel Aziz Mohammed will also be appointed to a key position in the judiciary.

Coupfourpointfive has not been able to confirm Ms Shameem's appointment yet and apologises for a report carried earlier that said she was the the first and only Indo-Fijian judge.

More journalists rounded up

Pacnews Reporter and Australian Associated Press stringer Pita Ligaula was arrested today between 1.30pm- 2pm.

Sources say the arrest was over two stories which appeared in Australian newspapers today.

The AAP's Wellington Bureau has organised a lawyer for him. Faizal Hanif, from Munro Leys, is with him at the moment.

Meanwhile, overseas correspondents and freelancers are still in a meeting with Major Neumi Leweni.

It's understood the meeting is to relay a message of "Do" and "Don't's" similar to a meeting with newsroom editors and directors last Friday.

Those meeting with Major Leweni are Samisoni Pareti, Makereta Komai, Matelita Ragogo, Laisa Taga and Ricardo Morris.

EU representative urges regime to honour its commitments to international community

Louis Michel, the European Commissioner for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid, today expressed deep regret and disappointment regarding recent regressive developments in Fiji; in particular the abrogation of the Constitution, the sacking of all judges, the delay of general elections
until 2014 and the curtailment of freedom of speech.

The Commissioner was particularly disappointed, since the interim Government had agreed with the EU on a plan which would have restored political order and democracy to Fiji and at the same time would have allowed the EU to provide substantial financial support to rescue the sugar sector and help
restore the economy.

Commissioner Michel called on the interim Government to reconsider these decisions and to honour its commitments to the international community and ultimately the people of Fiji.

Commissioner Michel said: "These developments are unacceptable for the international community. Commitments must be respected. An early and inclusive domestic political process leading to a return to constitutional norder and democracy in Fiji will allow us to provide assistance to Fiji, at a time when global economic prospects are becoming increasingly difficult."

Cook Islands denounces Fiji media gagging

*Media Release from Hon. Wilkie Rasmussen’s Office

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, the Hon Wilkie Rasmussen said that he expected Forum members to respond ‘with one voice’, in a statement released by his office today on developments in Fiji.

“The Prime Minister is presently overseas, but I am in touch with his office. The Chairman of the Forum, the Premier of Niue Mr Toke Talangi has written to all Forum Leaders requesting bringing forward the required date which is 1 May 2009 for Fiji to announce an election to be held by December 2009. There will be a full statement from Mr Talangi in due course” said the Minister.

He has also suggested an urgent meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Forum countries to review the recent actions taken by Commodore Bainimarama.

Minister Rasmussen, on behalf of the Cook Islands government condemns the gagging of the media and the further suppression of human rights in Fiji by the Commodore.

“It is very concerning that we have in the Pacific what is essentially a Junta Regime where martial law is the order of Fiji. This is not acceptable in the Pacific region”, says Rasmussen.

The Cook Islands is working together with other Pacific countries including New Zealand and Australia to find a solution to the continuing deterioration of law and order in Fiji and the standard of living.

Sayed-Khaiyum: "Commssioner of Police responsible for censoring of press and detainment of journalists"

Fiji's Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says that despite the detention of journalists, the censoring of the media and the constitution upheaval, life in Fiji is normal.

"Everything is normal, but foreign media probably want things not to be normal, including probably the governments of Australia and New Zealand," he told the ABC's Michael Vincent in an interview for AM.

"People are going about, doing their normal work, children are going to school, people are doing shopping, people are walking along the seawall, and things are normal."

Foreign journalists, including veteran ABC reporter Sean Dorney, have been expelled from the country and strict media censorship has been imposed.

"There has been one journalist - one journalist has been detained, and there's only two persons have been detained under the emergency regulations," Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

Another Fijian journalist, the editor of Fijilive news website, was taken into custody last night and questioned for a few hours.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said he did not know about this situation.

He says under regulations, detaining journalists and censoring the media is not his decision, rather it is done by the Commissioner of Police.

"The regulations relate from the Public Safety Act, which was actually enacted by the British in Fiji in the 1950s, and has been with us, so it's not any new law," he said.

The ABC website

BREAKING: Ligaiula taken in by military

Journalist Pita Ligaiula has been taken in military forces.

He was escorted out of his Pacnews newsroom in Suva by two police officers, and a senior officer from tbe Ministry of Information.

The authorities are unhappy about stories published in several
Australian newspapers today, carrying the byline of the PacNews reporter, who is also a stringer American Associated Press.

Other foreign correspondents, including the ones for Radio Australia - Ricardo Morris - and Radio New Zealand - Matelita Ragogo - have also been summoned.

BREAKING: More journalists summoned by regime

Reports just in from Suva say several local editors and foreign correspondents have been called in by the military regime.

Two of the journalists named are Ricardo Morris, correspondent for ABC Australia and Makereta Komai, correspondent for PacNews.

The journalists have been told to appear at the Ministry of Information to see Major Neumi Leweni in the next hour and a half - 2.30pm.

Support for regime: "Life under Mr Bainimarama not so bad"

Fiji's interim Prime Minister, Voreque Bainimarama, is attracting diverse support, even as international criticism rains down on him.

Fiji has been at the centre of a storm over past few days after its Court of Appeal last Thursday ruled Commodore Bainimarama's regime was illegal under the 1997 constitution.

In response President Ratu Josefa Iloilo sacked the judges, dissolved the constitution, ruled out any election for five years and removed Cdre Bainimarama, then reappointed him.

The military took over the Reserve Bank and sacked Governor Savenaca Narbue. Local media are being censored, and international media expelled.

New Zealand and Australia already have trade and travel sanctions in place against Fiji, which is set to become even more isolated.

But Commodre Bainimarama has plenty of support for his moves to replace the constitution with a charter.

Emails sent to the freefiji@newspapers.co.nz address set up by New Zealand's Newspapers Publishers Association, following the Fijian military's media clampdown, are showing support for his actions.

Collin McKenny, 65, an American who has lived in Fiji since 1997, says Fiji had never had democracy so it could not be restored.

"How can you be 'democratic' when people can only vote for a member of their own race?" she says.

Commodore Bainimarama wants to implement by 2014 a charter which would allow one person, one vote.

It was a pity he was the military leader, as that sent out a negative message, but Ms McKenny hopes he can make the world understand democracy is not possible under the 1997 constitution.

"The Charter WILL create democracy (as much as possible with the chiefly system)," says the Lomalagi Resort owner.

Fijian Indian, Anita Thomas, wrote that New Zealand and Australia should get in and help out, rather than whinge about the loss of democracy from the sidelines.

"Life under Mr Bainimarama is not so bad as always portrayed in NZ or Australia," she said.

"Prices are now coming down to affordable levels, crime is dropping, it is now safer for Indians to walk the streets at night."

This was not the case under the previous regime, when the government was ruled by corrupt politicians, she says.

Harish Chand echoed those views, saying with New Zealand and Australian help "Mr PM will salvage Fiji out of all trouble, with a corrupt-free Fiji".

"I will support him as he is a true son of Fiji."

Pacific specialist, Associate Professor Hugh Laracy from Auckland University, told NewstalkZB there was not enough understanding of how Commodore Bainimarama got to be where he is.

His coup in 2006 was different to the three previous ones, because he had an agenda and it was a reaction to a regime which had left Fiji in a mess.

Commodore Bainimarama was trying to get away from an arrangement that privileged one section of the community, and bring about equal citizenship.

He believed the interim prime minister had Fiji's best interests at heart.

Stuff and Newstalk ZB

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A viewpoint of the new Citizenship Decree

This analysis of the Citizenship Decree, announced yesterday, was sent to Coupfourpointfive.

Our writer says while the 1997 Constitution discouraged dual or multiple citizenship, the new Decree allows both, but it's not clear what the reasoning is for this - and the other changes.

He says it could be aimed at allowing citizens, from say, New Zealand, to return to Fiji and to hold key positions in the military regime in perpetuity, but this has already happened to some extent:

The Citizenship Decree replaces Chapter 3 of the 1997 Constitution(Section 8-20) that defines citizenship.

Marked differences between the Constitution and the new Decree are as follows:

The Constitution disallows dual or multiple citizenship. Number 6 of the Decree states, “An application for citizenship by registration made by an adult who is a citizen of another country must be granted if the person was formerly a citizen of the State”.

Section 12(6) of the Constitution states, “An application for citizenship by registration made by an adult who is a citizen of another country must be granted if: -

(a) the person was formerly a citizen of the State; and

(b) he or she renounces the other citizenship

Number 8 of the Decree on Renunciation of Citizenship states:

“A person may renounce his or her citizenship only if he or she:

(a) has reached the age of 18; and

(b) has been since birth a citizen of another country or has acquired the citizenship of another country by registration or naturalization

The Constitution (Section 15) says any Fiji person may renounce his or her citizenship if he or she has reached the age of 21. Therefore, the Decree has reduced the age from 21 to 18, just like the Peoples Charter proposes to reduce voting age from 21 to 18.

To state in the Decree that a person may renounce his or her citizens, if he or she has acquired citizenship of another country by naturalization or been a citizen of another country since birth, is meaningless on the face of offering dual citizenship.

The Decree has removed Section 14 (1) of the Constitution Loss of Citizenship. The Constitution states that a Fiji citizen renounces his or her citizenship if he or she voluntarily acquires citizenship or nationality of another country.

Section 14 (2) of the Constitution states that a citizen of the State who, while a minor, acquires the citizenship of another country forfeits his or her citizenship of the State at the age of 22 unless, after reaching the age of 21 and before reaching the age of 22, he or she renounces the other citizenship.

Section 14(3) of the Constitution states that an adult, who involuntarily acquires the citizenship of another country, does not forfeit his or her citizenship of the State unless he or she fails to renounce the other citizenship within 12 months of

(a) becoming aware of it; and

(b) being required by the Minister to renounce it

Section 10 of the Decree is titled Prevention of Statelessness and Multiple Citizenship. The Constitution’s Section 20 is titled Prevention of Statelessness only. This Section’s (a), (b) and (c) is exactly the same as that in the Decree. But the Decree has added part (d), “a person who has acquired the citizenship of one or more other countries is not restricted in applying for and being granted citizenship solely by virtue of having acquired the citizenship of one or more other countries”.

This nullifies Number 7 of the Decree Citizenship by naturalisation. Even this has been amended, when compared to the Constitution. It requires a person to be lawfully present in Fiji for a total of 3 of the 5 years immediately before application for naturalization is made.

Section 13(2) of the Constitution requires a person to be residing in Fiji lawfully for 5 of the 10 years immediately before the application for naturalization is made.

Section 19 of the Constitution Deprivation of Citizenship is not in the Decree. Under the Constitution, Parliament may make laws depriving a person citizenship only if:

(a) if citizenship was obtained by fraud, misrepresentation or the concealment of a material fact and

(b) if a person declares not to exercise the entitlement of citizenship of another country but has since making that declaration exercised such an entitlement

The regime’s intention of allowing dual - and even multiple citizenship - makes no sense as far as attracting former residents or investors go.

Number 9 of the Decree and Section 16 of the Constitution both state that former citizens, foreign wife or widow or foreign husband or widower of a citizen and a child of a citizen, may enter and reside in Fiji in accordance with compliance of the laws governing entry and residence.

Under this, former citizens enjoy access into Fiji. So, the offer of multiple and dual citizenship does not make sense for a small nation like Fiji.

Civil servants over 55 must retire in two weeks - Decree

Frank Bainimarama's interim government have released a new State Services Decree, which states that any civil servant over the age of 55 must retire by April 30th.

The Decree, one of seven released today, states the retirement age for those working for the interim government is 55.

However it says the Police Commissioner Captain Esala Teleni, Army Commander Frank Bainimarama and Commissioner of Prisons are exempt from this rule.

Economist says devaluation was 'overdue'

An Australian based economist says the devaluation of the Fiji dollar by 20 percent was long overdue.

Satish Chand, from Australia's University of New South Wales, says the pressure for a devaluation of the Fiji dollar was eminent since early 2006.

"The haemorrhaging of foreign exchange reserves held by the RBF over the past three years was at least partly due to an over-valued currency. Political instability in the interim has only exacerbated the pressure on the local currency. The last devaluation, thus, was only a matter of time," Mr Chand said.

He said the Fiji dollar was over-valued by at least 12 percent in 2007 and the current devaluation may restore the balance.

However he said the devaluation will hurt househoulds and raise inflation.

"Workers, those dependent on their savings, the retired, and the destitute will face the full brunt of the devaluation. Higher prices for imports will hurt consumers on two fronts. First, their incomes will now afford a smaller bundle of goods and services than before. Those who have lost jobs will now suffer the double whammy of higher inflation and lost income."

Mr Chand said Fiji now needed to reassure tourists that Fiji remains a safe and secure destination to visit as the devaluation gave Fiji's tourism a competitive edge.

Fijilive journalist released with a warning

Another journalist in Fiji was detained this afternoon and has been released with a warning.

Kavai Damu, from the web-based news service, Fijilive, was taken in for questioning after he wrote a story against the devaluation of the Fiji dollar.

He says he was escorted out of the newsroom by a police officer and a person from the Ministry of Information.

He says they let him go home with a warning.

A total of eight journalists have been detained and released so far.

Released law president gives first international interview

The president of the Fiji Law Society admits he's afraid of the repercussions but says he'll continue to speak up where it's needed.

Dorsami Naidu was released today after a night in police custody, as a result of supporting judiciary who were sacked last week by the president, Ratu Josefa Iloilo.

In this first interview with international media, on Checkpoint Radio New Zealand National, he said the police tried to pin sedition on him but were forced to release him without charging him.

Mr Naidu said he feels compelled to speak out against the illegal decision by the interim government to abrogate the constitution and to introduce the Public Emergency Regulations - and will keep doing so.

"Why hide from the truth?" he told Checkpoint. "Somebody has to speak out."

The interview was the first he gave to media outside Fiji.

Just after his release earlier today, he spoke with local media but one didn't run the story and the other is said to have misquoted him.

The Fiji Tmes is reported to have said Mr Naidu accepts the rule of the interim government and the emergency regulations, but this has been challenged by him.

Mr Naidu says he is trying to contact the paper but wonders whether the Times was forced to say what it did.

Forum Chair condemns situation in Fiji

The Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum and Premier of Niue, Toke Talagi, has condemned the recent developments in Fiji in which the constitution was purportedly set aside, judges and other legal officials dismissed and emergency regulations promulgated to restrict basic human rights, including media freedom, in the country.

“I condemn the actions of the military regime in Fiji to date, the abrogation of the Constitution and reappointment of members of the previous Interim Government in direct contravention of Fiji law as determined by the Court of Appeal on 9th April 2009,” Mr Talagi said.

“The hopes and aspirations of many in Fiji and the wider region, just briefly raised by the Court of Appeal decision on 9 April, have been dashed by the unilateral and irresponsible actions of President Iloilo and Commodore Bainimarama.

"The events of the past few days amount to wanton disregard for constitutionalism and the rule of law in Fiji and confirm my fears that there is no commitment on the part of this military regime to return Fiji to democracy through free and fair elections in any acceptable timeframe as urged by Forum Leaders.

“It is a very difficult time for the Pacific Islands Forum as the military regime in Fiji have now confirmed that they are unable to abide by the core commitments to democracy, human rights and justice which lie at the very heart of our Forum family in the Pacific.

"The thoughts and prayers of all Forum Leaders are with the people of Fiji at this difficult and distressing time. We know they continue to bear the burden of the social and economic damage compounded by the actions of the last few days," he said.

The Chair reiterated that the Pacific Islands Forum stands ready to support any legitimate and balanced efforts to return Fiji to freedom and democracy.

“We will not abandon the people of Fiji, nor doubt Fiji's ability to contribute greatly to strengthening the Pacific region. We wait anxiously for its early return to democracy and good governance and resumption of normal relations with its Pacific neighbours,” the Chair added.

The Chair also noted he was very mindful of the implications of recent developments for Forum member country citizens in Fiji and the possible impacts on the convening of Forum meetings in the country and on the operations of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat which is headquartered in Suva. The Chair indicated he would be giving these matters further consideration in his contacts with Forum Leaders.

“I will be consulting with my fellow Forum Leaders on actions to underscore our condemnation of the military regime’s hijacking of Fiji’s Constitution, particularly where there was due process already provided under law to return the country to constitutional democracy through free and fair elections."

Sada Reddy confirmed as new head of Fiji Reserve Bank

The interim government has formallly announced the new governor of the Fiji Reserve Bank as Sada Reddy, the man previously deputy governor.

The confirmation comes as the government devalues the Fiji dollar by 20 per cent.

It follows, too, the sacking, yesterday, of the governor of the Fiji Reserve Bank, Saveneca Narube.

A press statement by the Bank says Mr Reddy has been appointed for three years, effective from today (April the 15th).

The statement says he is highly regarded for his experience in economic and financial policy matterrs.

Sada Reddy was the chair of the Housing Authority for 6 years and is the current chair of the Fiji School of Medicine and deputy chair of the Capital Market Development Authority.

He graduated with a masters from Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, and joined the Reserve Bank in 1975.

He was deputy governor for 14 years.

RBF confirms Fiji Dollar devaluation

The Reserve Bank of Fiji has now confirmed the Fiji Dollar has been devalued by 20 percent, effective immediately.

In a statement, the RBF says Fiji's community have to bear the burden of adjustment so the Fiji economy could recover quickly.

"In this regard the control on banks interest rates will assist the business sector to have a more stable interest rate environment and depositors will earn respectable interest rates," it says.

"The devaluation will bring the Fiji Dollar in line with the major trading partner countries such as Australia and New Zealand," it continued.

The central bank predicts that inflation will rise immediately, but it says this will subside within a year.

Coupfourpointfive was tipped off about the devaluing of the dollar earlier today.

Fiji dollar devalued

Bank sources say the interim government has devalued the Fiji dollar by 20 per cent.

Banks around Fiji were told of the decision an hour ago and the Reserve Bank is expected to announce it soon.

The Fiji dollar was last devalued in 1998 by 12.5 per cent, by the then Finance Minister, Jim Ah Koy.

Prior to that, it was devalued on two occassions after the 1987 coups - by 33.25 per cent.

The government also yesterday moved to stop cash reserves leaving the country and sacked the Reserve Bank Governor, Savenaca Narube.

Police release Law Society president

Another local Fijian has been released by the interim government.

He's Dorsami Naidu, the president of the Fiji Law Society, who was detained yesterday for apparently leading a peaceful protest in support of the sacked judiciary.

Mr Naidu was detained at the Lautoka Police Station, but was apparently not held in a prison cell - as Fiji TV reporter, Edwin Nand, was.

Family and friends, along with other lawyers, last night held a vigil outside the Lautoka prison, worried for the safety of Mr Naidu.

Coupfourpointfive has been told Mr Naidu was treated alright and was released just after 11am.

Fiji Gov't Announces New Decrees

New Decrees have been announced by Fiji's interim government.

They follow last week's controversial Public Emeregency Regulation Decree and Frank Bainimarama's comment to media that reforms will take place, despite Opposition

The latest Decrees released today are as follows:

1. Fiji Constitution Ammendment Decree
2. Executive Authority of Fiji Decree
3. Fiji Existing Laws Decree
4. Revocation of Judicial Appointments Decree
5. Legal Notice No. 1 - Ministerial Assignment
6. Revenue and Expenditure Decree
7. State Services Decree
8 Citizenship Decree

To read: http://www.fiji.gov.fj/publish/decrees.shtml

Fiji TV reporter heading home after two nights in cell

Fiji TV reporter, Edwin Nand, is on his way home, after spending the last two nights in a cell in the Suva police station.

He was in custody for 36 hours and is understood to have been spoken to by Major Neumi Leweni, from the Ministry of Information, and Police Commissioner, Captain Esala Teleni.

No charges were laid against Nand but he was taken in for allegedly breaching the public emergency regulations, in interviewing ABC journalist, Sean Dorney.

Nand was the first local reporter to be hauled in by the police, who this week successfully removed the last two foreign journalists from Suva.

Sources told Coupfourpointfive Nand was okay and just wanted to go home - and to have a cigarette.

BREAKING: TV reporter released after 36 hours

Fiji Television reporter Edwin Nand has just been released - after 36 hours of quetioning by the Fiji police.

Coupfourpointfive has been told the journalist is relieved to be out of custody - he was taken in two days ago after he interviewed Australian journalist, Sean Dorney.

No charges were laid against Mr Nand, who was kept at the Central Police Station in Suva.

His employers and their lawyer were last night at the police station, trying to secure his release.

Mr Nand was the first local journalist to be taken into custody after the interim regime revoked the working visa of Kiwi journalist, Sia Aston, and her cameraman, and the Australian journalist, Sean Dorney, who was deported after he refused to leave voluntarily.

Bainimarama: "We want these reforms and the last thing we want is opposition"


The Fiji military chief, Voreqe Bainimarama, says he is determined to make changes to the country's electoral system and he does not want opposition to them.

He told Radio New Zealand National this was why he introduced emergency regulations which included media censorship.

"We want to do these changes, we want to come up with these reforms and the last thing we want to have is opposition throughout."

He says a survey showed 64 percent of Fiji wanted electoral reform.

"This is nothing to do with the Australian Government and the New Zealand Government; this is to do with Fiji and the people of Fiji....

"We want changes."

The Commodore insisted this would make Fiji a better place.

Asked if a Radio New Zealand reporter could visit Fiji, Bainimarama says it was not necessary: "You just ask me the questions; I will give you the answers."

He attacked a Court of Appeal ruling last week which said the military coup had been illegal.

He says they produced a 52 page judgment in 24 hours.

"It is obvious that they made that decision long before they got to Fiji."

Meanwhile, he has has unleashed a fresh purge amid claims that he fears he could himself be the victim of a military rebellion.

Well-placed sources say the 2006 coup leader, who narrowly survived a military mutiny in 2000, was worried that elements of the military could turn on him as the political and economic situation in Fiji spiralled downwards.

In what one former rival described as a "naked power grab", Commodore Bainimarama yesterday moved against the Reserve Bank and legal profession in a wave of arrests and intimidation.

The regime also stepped up its crackdown on the media and free speech, with sources in Suva saying a special military unit was monitoring the internet.

Government censors were placed in newsrooms at the weekend and the media has been warned to not carry "negative" stories about the regime.

DIRE CONSEQUENCES

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says if Fiji's military regime does not do a "miraculous turnaround" and commit to elections soon then the economic consequences will be dire.

Speaking to journalists in Beijing, Mr Key said that recent events in Fiji mean the country is being given a "passport to poverty" by Commodore Bainimarama.

The moves in recent days had taken democratic elections off the table for five years and that was unacceptable.

"The economic implications for Fiji will be dire if they don't have elections in that time I understand their economy is becoming more and more stressed by the day," Mr Key said.

Mr Key said he was very concerned about the recent events in the Pacific nation.

"In some sense I think it was predictable, because I don't think Frank [Voreqe] Bainimarama had ever shown a desire to restore democracy in Fiji," Mr Key said.

The occupation of the Reserve Bank meant Fiji now also faced even further exchange risks.

"That is one of the serious issues that their economy is facing but not the only one. It is hard to see that there will be any inbound investment in Fiji, we know tourism numbers are falling. . . Frank Bainimarama is effectively delivering a passport to poverty."

The Pacific Forum had set a deadline of May the 1st to set a timeline for elections or face expulsion and Mr Key said this process would continue unless there was a massive turnaround by the regime.

The Commonwealth is expected to follow suit and suspend Fiji soon after, leaving it internationally isolated at a time when it is likely to need help to prop up a rapidly failing economy.

PEACEKEEPER USE CRITICISED

The United Nations is playing into the Fiji military's hands by continuing to use peacekeepers from the island nation, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says.

The military, led by Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has run Fiji since staging a 2006 coup and Mr McCully yesterday said the UN should stop using those same soldiers.

"Quite frankly, the fact that the UN continues to use Fijian peacekeepers plays into the hands of the interim regime," he said.

"They sustain the interim regime both in terms of credibility and in terms of cash.

"It's very regrettable that the UN continues to do that and, in light of current circumstances, I'll be raising that issue again directly with them."

New Zealand and Australia already have trade and travel sanctions in place against Fiji, and Mr McCully said suspension from the Pacific Island Forum looked certain.

"I don't think there's much prospect that we're going to see anything other than a suspension from the forum," Mr McCully said.

"I think it's true that the Commonwealth, the UN, the EU, other organisations internationally take their lead from the regional organisation, so forum members will no doubt look at whether there is any collective action they should take."

Mr McCully also warned holidaymakers to think "long and hard" about visiting Fiji.

"Clearly the military regime is looking to assert itself and that is why we've been warning New Zealanders to think carefully about whether they need to go to Fiji at the moment, because the situation is volatile and uncertain," he said.

"There are probably a lot of very safe places to hang out on the beach. It's just that to get to them you've got to pass by some authorities that are now under the control of. . . a military that is behaving in a manner that is less predictable than we've been used to."

However, Mr McCully all but ruled out imposing a travel ban on New Zealanders, saying to restrict people's freedom in that way would make the Government no better than the Fiji's administration.

It was also unlikely trade sanctions would be toughened as they tended to punish innocent people.

By Michael Field and Martin Kay with NZPA

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Reporter's release delayed by Teleni


Fiji TV is keeping a close eye on the detainment of its reporter, Edwin Nand, who is spending a second night in jail.

Mr Nand was taken into custody yesterday, for interviewing Australian journalist, Sean Dorney.

He has not been charged by the police and it's understood the military regime is trying to establish who approved footage to be sent to the ABC.

It's understood Major Neumi Leweni, from the Ministry of Information, said Nand could leave, but he was then told Police Commissioner, Captain Esala Teleni, wanted to talk to him.

That was earlier tonight and he remains in the Central Police Station in Suva.

Edwin Chand is accused of breaching the publication and broadcasting provisions of the Public Emergency Regulations.

The last two foreign journalists left Fiji today, and have returned to New Zealand and Australia detailing the difficulties the Fiji media is being forced to work under as the military cracks down on what it calls negative coverage.

Family and friends hold vigil at police station for law society president


Reports coming out of Suva in the last hour say the friends and family of Dorsami Naidu are keeping vigil outside the Lautoka police station, where he's been kept.

Fellow lawyers are also at the vigil for the president of the Fiji Law Society, who was taken into custody earlier today.

It's understood Mr Naidu is calm and collected, but tired from his ordeal.

Earlier today, lawyers and friends gathered outside the Suva court house, in a peaceful protest at the detainment of Mr Naidu - and no arrests were made.

But supporters at tonight's Lautoka vigil have been warned not to underestimate the hardline tactics of the Frank Bainimarama regime.

Another night in jail for Fiji TV reporter

Fiji TV reporter, Edwind Nand, is spending another night in jail, without any charges laid.

Mr Nand was taken to the Central Police Station in Suva yesterday, after an interview with the ABC's Pacific Correspondent Sean Dorney.

Mr Dorney was deported from Fiji today, after being told Frank Bainimarama's regime didn't like his stories.

New Zealand journalist, Sia Aston and her cameraman were also asked to leave today after their work visas were revoked.

They were the last foreign journalists in Fiji.

Fiji Freedom Writer: Even story on hospital being without hot water has been censored

Another freedom writer from behind Fiji's miltary lines told Coupfourpointfive what appeared - and didn't appear today - on TV:

The 6pm news on Fiji TV lasted just five minutes - sports 11. All up, it came out at 24 minutes, thanks to business news and the weather, but far shorter than its usual 60 minutes.

The only hard news - and it was just a dry read - was Saveneca Narube's sacking, along with that of other constitutional officers, like the Fiji Human Rights Commission, and the Director of Public Prosectutions.

The story only made it to air because Major Neumi Leweni confirmed it.

Missing was coverage of Dorsami Naidu's arrest, Edwin Nand's arrest or pictures of the lawyers outside the Lautoka Court today.

Also absent was a story on Sigatoka Hospital going without hot water for five days - the item was done on Sunday but authorities today continued to block it.

Dorsami Naidu will remain overnight at the Lautoka Police Station.

And Edwin Nand had not been released as of 6.50pm.

Fiji Freedom Writers Speak out: "Common sight for police to be peeping into living rooms"

This Fijian national gave this account to Coupfourpointfive, of some of the events unfolding in Suva, today.

He says it's a common sight now at night for police to be peeping into the living room windows of people they're keeping an eye on.

He says vans with plainclothes men - army officers for sure - are doing the rounds at night, using walkie talkies and mobiles to communicate:

Fiji Law Society President, Dorsami Naidu, was arrested by police this morning from in front of Lautoka High Court. We believe it is over his comments to ABC's Sean Dorney and Radio New Zealand. A group of lawyers and court clerks - a very large gathering - were outside Lautoka Court but were prevented from entering. The court house is being guarded by police.

As of this moment, Dorsami Naidu is still being quested at Lautoka Police Station. The other lawyers are waiting for him in a nearby restaurant. He was still awaiting to be questioned. The court clerks were also not allowed inside today to report for work. They have been locked out, along with the judges.

Edwin Nand - the Fiji TV reporter - was questioned last night and at 10pm ordered by Waisea Tabakau to be locked up at the Central Police Station. He is alleged to have breached the publication and broadcasting provisions of the Public Emergency Regulations. The cell entry just shows arrested under PER.

This morning, the lawyer for Fiji TV was told he would be released this morning. But later in the morning he was told to await further questioning. As of now, he is stil being questioned and was expected to be released this afternoon. Interestingly, he is being questioned over the Sean Dorney footage that appeared on ABC Television. They want to know who authorised the sending of the footage to ABC.

Savenaca Narube was given a termination letter last night. He was told not to go to his office and vacate the Governor's Residence as soon as possible. Soldiers were seen at Reserve Bank and it is reported Narube went to the office, but whether he was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Barracks is unclear.

The director of public prosecutions, Josaia Naguilevu, was initially put under house arrest but we understand he, too, has been sacked. The DPP's office, next to Fiji TV, is under guard with no one allowed inside, including other oficers.

Justice Filimoni Jitoko is under house arrest as well. Thomas Hickie, another judge, was monitored through Easter, with an unmarked car outside his house at all times.

Fiji Times Western photograther, Jai Prasad, was also arrested, detained briefly and released. He was taking pictures outside the Lautoka Courthouse. A team of police officers were also sent to the Times newsroom armed with a search warrant to search the premises for his camera - the idea was to confiscate it and remove the film.

They refused to allow the Times newsroom staff to photocopy the search warrant signed by a former Lautoka City Councillor Councillor (lady) and OBVIOUSLY FIJI LABOUR PARTY.

Law Society President to spend night in jail

Reliable sources have told Coupfourpointfive that the President of the Fiji Law Society, Dorsami Naidu, will spend the night in a Lautoka jail.

Mr Naidu was arrested this morning after he and other lawyers turned up at the court house in Lautoka, despite the President sacking the judiciary last week.

A Fiji Times photographer, Fiji TV reporter and cameraman were also arrested after they took pictures of Mr Naidu being taken into custody.

Also today, the military took over the Reserve Bank of Fiji with sources saying the Bank's Governor, Savenaca Narube, has been told to vacate the Government Quarters he and his family are occupying.

Fiji's security forces also took over the office of the Director of Prosecutions.

Frank Bainimarama's government has yet to appoint its own judges or to come up with a Constitution. The President Ratu Josefa Iloilo abrogated the Constitution last week, appointed himself Head of State, declaring a 30 day state of emergency.

Commonwealth lawyers statement on Fiji

The Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) is a pan-Commonwealth professional association of lawyers dedicated to maintain and promote the rule of law throughout the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth Lawyers Association strongly denounces the unlawful action of the Republic of Fiji’s titular head of state Ratu Josefa Iloilo to suspend the constitution, dismiss members of Fiji’s judiciary and to reappoint his military chief, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, to the post of prime minister for a period of 5 years.

It is noted that Ratu Josefa Iloilo assumed executive power and acted only after a unanimous ruling of the Fiji Court of Appeal on 9 April 2009 that Commodore Bainimarama had come to power illegally through a coup in 2006 and that the judges of the Court of Appeal who fearlessly rendered that decision according to Fiji’s law are amongst those (now) to have been removed from office.

It is further noted that the Court of Appeal’s direction that a caretaker Prime Minister be appointed and for democratic elections to take place as soon as possible, has been contemptuously ignored in the reappointment of Commodore Frank Bainimarama for a period of 5 years.

The CLA calls for the immediate reinstatement of the judiciary and for those that govern the Republic of Fiji to immediately abide by the unanimous ruling of the Fiji Court of Appeal on 9 April 2009, to dissolve the military backed civilian regime and return the Country to democracy in accordance with the Court’s judgment by which it is bound.

Further, the CLA calls upon the rulers of Fiji to immediately reinstate the constitution.

The CLA further draws attention to the fact that these events follow a report by the International Bar Association released in March 2009 which found that the rule of law in Fiji has been severely compromised by the actions of the government of Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

The CLA is concerned by reports of extensive media censorship and the suppression of information concerning recent events.

The CLA pledges that it will continue to support of efforts by the Fiji Law Society to maintain the independence of the judiciary and to promote democracy and the rule of law in Fiji.

Executive Committee, Commonwealth Lawyers Association
13 April 2009

Fiji: The Cruel Hoax

Brij V Lal

On 9 April, the Fiji Court of Appeal, the country’s second highest court, ruled that the December 2006 military coup against Laisenia Qarase’s democratically elected government was illegal, as was the installation soon afterwards of Commodore Bainimarama’s interim administration by President Josefa Iloilo. The President’s supposed sovereign powers were found to be non-existent. The President had no powers except those specified in the 1997 Constitution. He was required to work within the provisions of the Constitution, not outside it. The court recommended that the President appoint a distinguished Fiji citizen, other than Laisenia Qarase or Bainimarama, to head a caretaker government and prepare the country for fresh parliamentary elections.

Later that evening, Commodore Bainimarama, appearing relaxed and informal, told the nation that he had resigned as Prime Minister and was returning to the barracks. Many in Fiji applauded him thinking that the rule of law might now finally prevail. But the optimism was short lived.

Bainimarama’s words were a cruel hoax played on an unsuspecting nation.

The next day, shortly after midday, President Iloilo addressed the nation. In the course of his speech, he praised Bainimarama’s interim administration for creating ‘opportunities for new ideas,’ and for adhering to the President’s controversial mandate. Then, in a statement full of strange irony, he said that to ‘facilitate the holding of true democratic and parliamentary elections,’ he was abrogating the 1997 constitution (for which he had voted as a then Senator), appointing himself the Head of State, and revoking the appointment of all judicial officers.

By Saturday morning, President Iloilo reappointed Commodore Bainimarama as the interim Prime Minister. All of the same members of the previous interim cabinet were sworn in later in the day.

The old regime was back in office, back in business, in a new set of clothes.

The regime’s supporters argued that the Appeal Court’s decision left President Iloilo with no option but to abrogate the constitution. This is simply not true. Exercising Emergency Powers, the President could properly have appointed an interim cabinet to take the country to the next parliamentary elections.

But returning the country to parliamentary democracy was the last thing on his mind, or on the minds of his minders. The President was not the free, impartial head of state the world imagined him to be. Visibly in ill-health, painfully struggling through a speech written for him, he was, in truth, an instrument in the hands of the military to do whatever they wanted done.

The military wanted the constitution abrogated, and they used a pliant President to do the deed for them, to give the treasonous action a semblance of legitimacy. A titular head of state, akin to the Governor General in Australia, was expected to protect the honour and integrity of the constitution; instead, he trashed it at the behest of the military. In effect, he carried out the country’s fifth coup in two decades.

Fiji is currently under a hastily decreed Emergency Regulations. Freedom of movement and speech are severely curtailed, and military and police are stationed in the country’s media offices to monitor the publication of news. The media had already been under attack, with Land Forces Commander Pita Driti threatening to shut down the Fiji Times. The home of the newspaper’s editor, Netani Rika, had been the target of a fire bomb a week ago. Other prominent pro-democracy leaders were similarly attacked. Intimidation is working. Self-censorship is the order of the day in Fiji.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the country is effectively run by a shadowy Military Council. Commodore Bainimarama has publicly admitted heeding their advice.

So what does the military want? They said, when they took over government in December 2006, that wanted to clean the country of corruption. But the ‘clean up’ campaign has lost all credibility. No one has been prosecuted so far.

The military says they want Fiji to have a new electoral system, the Proportional Representation Open List System, not the Alternative Vote system currently in place. There is emerging consensus that Fiji needs to move away from its present race-based, quasi-consociational (power sharing) system.

Whatever electoral system is in place, unless there is basic respect for the rule of law, nothing will work.

The real cause of political instability in Fiji is not its electoral system, but a large standing army in an unruly environment characterized by a blatant disregard for the verdict of the ballot box. Unless the military is reined in or its size substantially reduced, Fiji’s political stability will remain at risk. But the military sees for itself not a reduced but an enhanced role in the public life of Fiji. Any new constitution that is drawn up will shore up the military’s power.

The military wants to introduce the principles of good governance through a so-called Peoples’ Charter. Full of motherhood statements about how to run a happy and harmonious society (Sociology 101, in truth), the Charter is a mantra chanted ad nauseam by the military. The Charter is a harmless enough planning document, but the military sees no irony in introducing good governance principles at the point of a gun, and against the wishes of most indigenous Fijians, if the stand of the Methodist Church, the Fijian Teachers Association and the former ruling SDL Party is anything to go by.

Commodore Bainimarama and his Military Council are determined to have their way. So far, they have ignored the advice of Fiji’s regional neighbours, represented by the Pacific Forum Leaders. The Commonwealth Secretariat’s plea for dialogue and peaceful resolution of the current impasse has similarly fallen on deaf ears. The European Union’s funds for the restructure of the country’s ailing sugar industry are on hold.

The immediate future of the Fijian economy looks grim. In these times of galloping global financial crisis, no one will invest capital in an environment characterized by systemic political instability. Two weeks ago, Commodore Bainimarama instructed his Permanent Secretaries to cut the current operating budgets of their departments by fifty per cent.

And the Reserve Bank has placed strict financial control on capital outflow. These, more than anything else, give the truest picture of dire situation facing Fiji. As the impasse remains unresolved and the political dialogue process stalls, as the military entrenches its position and as the international condemnations continue, Fiji does not have much room for optimism as it looks to its immediate future.

In 1985 Fiji was described by Pope John Paul II as ‘The Way The World Should Be.’ That period has now vanished beyond recall. After several coups in the last two decades, Fiji is, sadly, on the way to becoming ‘The Burma of the Pacific.’

Reserve Bank of Fiji Announces Policy

CHANGES TO EXCHANGE CONTROLS

The Reserve Bank of Fiji has tightened exchange controls with immediate effect.

The Deputy Governor, Sada Reddy, said that this move is in line with one of
the Bank’s core objectives of safeguarding our foreign reserves.

Some of these changes include suspension of facilities while application for
other facilities by customers will require the approval of the Reserve Bank. Certain
transactions will continue to be delegated but at lower limits.

Further clarification of these measures can be obtained from Commercial Banks, other Authorised Foreign Exchange Dealers and the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

Sada Reddy

Deputy Governor

More journalists rounded up

More journalists have been taken in for questioning by Fiji police for trying to do their jobs.

The Fiji Times photographer Jai Prasad, Fiji Television Western Reporter Ranbeer Singh and cameraman Harry Tabanidalo, were taken in by police today.

Sources have told Coupfourpointfive they had gone to cover the protest by lawyers in Lautoka, when they were taken in by police.

The source says Fiji Law Society President Dorsami Naidu, who was there with the lawyers, was also taken into police custody.

Coupfourpointfive has been told that seven police officers also went to the Fiji Times Lautoka office and took photos taken by the newspaper's photographer of events outside the Lautoka court.

Journalists banned from Government Buildings

Journalists in Fiji have been told to stay away from Government Buildings today.

Sources told Coupfourpointfive a number of journalists were visited by the police in the last hour and were told government buildings, including the main court house, were out of bounds.

The police have also warned journalists not to take pictures of people coming and going at the buildings.

Most of the government offices, including the Prime Minister's office, the Ministry of Information and the judiciary, are right in the heart of Suva, within minutes of each other.

Fiji's media have chosen to run without political stories in recent days as a result of the new emergency laws and the new hardline censorship decrees.

However, they've been monitoring activity around the government buildings.

There was particular interest today with news the legal fraternity were to show their support of sacked judciary.

The governor of the Reserve Bank, Savenaca Narube, was also put under house arrest this morning, after being told last night not to go to work.

Pacific Media Centre Condemns 'Ruthless Censorship' in Fiji

AUCKLAND (PMC Online/Pacific Media Watch): The Pacific Media Centre, a regional development communication research and publication resource, has condemned the Fiji regime's 'ruthless censorship' of news organisations and called for an end to intimidation.

The condemnation follows a canned news bulletin by Fiji Television tonight and a blank page and story spaces in today's Sunday edition of the Fiji Times by news editors in protest over censored content.

Fijilive also reported "withdrawing" some news items as censors maintained a presence in the country's newsrooms since the 30-day Public Emergency Regulations came into force.

Some journalists reported a "climate of silence" in some newsrooms in response to the censorship.

Associate Professor David Robie, director of New Zealand's AUT University-based PMC, called on the Fiji regime of Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama to "end this Orwellian era of ruthless censorship and intimidation".

"The people of Fiji should be allowed free and unfettered media coverage, especially at this time of uncertainty and anxiety," he said.

"A gagged and intimidated media will only lead to rumours, disinformation and more instability."

The regime earlier called on the nation's media to refrain from publishing "negative" stories about the actions of the President Ratu Josefa Iloilo over the past few days.

On Good Friday, the president abrogated the 1997 Constitution, sacked the nation's judges and declared himself Head of State.

This followed a Court of Appeal judgment on Thursday which ruled that the interim government of Prime Minister Bainimarama was illegal.

The president reappointed Bainimarama as prime minister and Fiji is now being ruled by decree, including one that has imposed newsroom censorship by Ministry of Information officials and police.

Editors were told not to publish or broadcast items that may involve "incitement" and undermine law and order.

Major Neumi Leweni, who is also Permanent Secretary of Information, asked all news media to “immediately refrain from publishing and broadcasting any news item that is negative in nature, relating to the assumption of executive authority on 10 April by his Excellency the President, and the subsequent appointments of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers”.

Section 3 of the regulations state that anybody or organisation that “fails in any way whatsoever" to comply with the state provisions may be ordered to "cease all activities and operations".

In today's Sunday Times, page 2 was left blank apart from a downpage box that declared: "The stories on this page could not be published due to government restrictions."

Five dummied up story spaces were left blank on page 3 and a political cartoon space on the page 6 opinion section was also blank.

The ministry has reportedly warned the Fiji Times to stop leaving blank spaces or face closure under the decree.

After leaving out an item in last night's 6pm bulletin news due to censorship, Fiji Television pulled its main bulletin tonight.

Fiji banker arrested

by Michael Field

Fiji’s currency is in crisis as the military occupy the country’s central Reserve Bank (RBF), housed in the same building as the New Zealand High Commission, and have Governor Savenaca Narube under arrest.

In a brief statement a short time ago the RBF deputy governor Sada Reddy said the bank has "tightened exchange controls with immediate effect."

Sources who cannot be named for fear of their safety say a major currency run is underway with hard exchange fleeing the country.

Sources say the New Zealand High Commission offices, which are a floor below the governor's office, have not been entered by the military.

Mr Narube has been loudly warning Fiji that its economy is in major strife and on Thursday he announced the domestic economic would contract this year by 0.3 percent as against a projected 2.4 percent.

He said Fiji's official foreign reserves were F$674 million, equivalent to 2.7 months of imports of goods.

Fiji normally has reserves of around five to six months.

Mr Reddy's statement said the controls - which are not defined in the statement - was is in line with one of the bank's core objectives of safeguarding our foreign reserves.

"Some of these changes include suspension of facilities while application for other facilities by customers will require the approval of the Reserve Bank," Mr Reddy said.

"Certain transactions will continue to be delegated but at lower limits."

BNZ senior currency trader Danica Hampton says the RBF move to tighten exchange rate controls is likely to have been put in place to prevent capital flight.

"But details are sketchy at present, and it's difficult to make any conclusive analysis right now," Hampton warned.

"The moves this morning ultimately reflects the ongoing political tensions in the country which have escalated over the last couple of days."

Hampton told Businessday the Reserve Bank of Fiji's move was significant for Fiji itself, but was unlikely to have much of an effect on the New Zealand dollar.

"It's [Fiji] is such a small driver of currency that we are unlikely to see a any wholesale flight to safety for the Kiwi dollar."

One New Zealand dollar currently buys 1.03310 Fiji Dollar.

The martial law crackdown comes as TV3 reporter Sia Aston and cameraman Matt Smith, and Australian Broadcasting Corporation correspondent Sean Dorney, were deported and are currently flying to Auckland.

A Fiji TV reporter, Edwin Nand, who interviewed Mr Dorney as he was being deported, has been arrested and is in custody.

Ms Aston and Mr Smith were allowed to stay in a Nadi hotel last night but Mr Dorney was held at the immigration detention centre.

As he missed a flight to his Brisbane home its understood he has been deported to Auckland.

Meanwhile Foreign Minister Murray McCully says New Zealanders should think twice about visiting Fiji.

He has also raised the possibility of travel and trade bans to the troubled Pacific nation but said they were not preferred options.

The latest turmoil in Fiji was prompted by its Court of Appeal ruling last Thursday that Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama's regime, in power since staging a 2006 coup, was illegal under the country's 1997 constitution.

In response, the country's ailing 89-year-old President Josefa Iloilo sacked the judges, dissolved the constitution, ruled out any election for five years and briefly removed Cdre Bainimarama before re-appointing him as prime minister.

Sources who cannot be named for fear of their safety say the military has moved into the Fiji Reserve Bank building and the home of governor Savenaca Narube.

It's understood he has been removed and maybe under arrest.

Sources say the New Zealand High Commission offices, which are a floor below the governor's office, have not been entered by the military.

He has been loudly warning Fiji that its economy is in major strife and on Thursday he announced the domestic economic would contract this year by 0.3 percent as against a projected 2.4 percent.

He said Fiji's official foreign reserves were F$674 million, equivalent to 2.7 months of imports of goods.

Fiji normally has reserves of around five to six months.

Sources say there is now a real fear that the last of the reserves will flee this week.

'Truth may filter out via internet'

The internet may be the last hope in revealing the truth about what is happening in media-censored Fiji, according to a Massey journalism lecturer who reported on the 1987 coup.

Military ruler Frank Bainimarama has suspended the country's constitution and imposed martial law and state censorship on the nation's media. The last foreign journalists in Fiji, including TV3's political reporter Sia Aston and a cameraman were due to be deported today.

Lecturer and journalist Allan Samson says the local media's decision not to print or air censored stories is honourable and courageous. He says the truth about the political situation in Fiji will eventually filter out, probably through the internet.

While reporting in Fiji in 1987 Samson was arrested twice. He says he and photographer Simon Townsley were handed over to the army, interrogated for four hours and told not to print what officials described as 'bullshit'.

Newstalk ZB

Fiji Law Society calls meeting

Radio New Zealand International

The Fiji Law Society has written to the country’s judges and magistrates offering advice on taking up appointments in the new legal order announced by Fiji’s President on Friday.

With no constitution in place, the Society’s President Dorsami Naidu says the fraternity has offered its support and advice to its members in the judiciary to abide by the oath they took.

Fijilive says the Fiji Law Society will be calling a general meeting of members soon to get their views on the current events.

On Friday, President Ratu Josefa Iloilo revoked all appointments to the judiciary.

The Ministry of Information says revealed the President will be making judicial appointments over the next few days under a new Administration of Justice Decree.

The ministry also says court registries are to be open today and business is to continue as usual.

News Content © Radio New Zealand International

Monday, April 13, 2009

Fiji legal fraternity to show support

Lawyers in Fiji are tonight preparing to show support for the judges who were sacked last week by President Ratu Josefa Iloilo.

A well-placed source in Fiji told CoupFourPointFive, the legal fratenity plan to turn up to work, even if the courts are closed.

All judiciary, including the three judges behind the Thursday Court of Appeal ruling, were sacked.

But sources say the judges believe that technically they still have their jobs because the interim government has yet to appoint their replacements.

It's not certain, though, whether the courts will be open tomorrow or if military or police will be guarding the premises.

In revocating the judicial appointments last week, Ratu Iloilo dismissed the chief justice, justices of appeal, puisne judges, master of the high court, chief magistrate and magistrates without monetary compensation, ruling none could sue for damages.

In the same decree, he ruled interim government ministers are entitled to the remuneration and allowances they had the before the April 10 (Friday) announcement.