Thursday, October 9, 2008

Bye bye Qarase - a bula morning in the Fiji High Court

A BOMB threat cleared the Fiji High Court today, but the end result was a damp squib for the coup critics' camp. Coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama won his ruling in court and it was bye bye Laisenia Qarase. The deposed prime minister's attempt to have the December 2006 coup declared in breach of the 1997 constitution failed. One of Café Pacific's e-scribes was on hand to record some wry impressions:

In offices they listened and watched as Fiji TV carried the court findings live and radio boomed out around the nation. On the streets they listened. On the island of Laisenia Qarase, people were glued to the live radio broadcast.
It was Judgment Day - and a big one too.
Qarase lost his case. The Fijian Constitution still stands and that’s that.
The President has direct powers to rule. He has used them and he has the right to use them until the next election is ready.
He was given a long lead time – at least no date was hinted at for the election. When the time is ready for the elections, it’s ready.
Bainimarama must be laughing all the way to his office today, dancing and firing guns in the air. The kava bowls will be filled over many times.
So goes the judgment. And there was not implied - but direct criticism - voiced against both Australia and New Zealand for their travel bans against the interim government.
As for the judge who read the judgment, it took him around two hours in all with a break for coffee and biscuits. And was it wordy? – Oh yes.
We had references to precedents in England, Scotland,
the Philippines, Colonial India and World Two in Burma.
I heard the name John Locke and 1688. I lost the plot now and again, and returned to it between my cups of coffee. But then the three judges needed breaks too.
At the end of the judgment, the judge apologised to the various legal counsel for small typographical errors, and said he was would send electronic correct copies to them during the afternoon.
He also gave a gentle barbed reply on trees, conservation and paper to a counsel who asked about getting a corrected printed copy of the judgment.

The Fiji interim regime wasted no time in calling for cooperation and support for its election plans and constitutional legal specialist Professor Bill Hodge, of Auckland University, says many governments previously opposed to the regime can now be expected to recognise the government as legitimate.

Meanwhile, University of the South Pacific political scientist Steve Ratuva has done a handy analysis on the real power plays at work in Fiji - something vastly better than has been seen from the local flacks for months.

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