Sunday, February 26, 2012
Covert trip reveals rule of law ‘lost’ in Fiji
Cartoon by Marc Snyder - thanks to Fiji Island Mermaid Press.
By Eduardo Reyes in the Law Society Gazette
A SECRET fact-finding mission to Fiji has concluded that the rule of law "no longer operates" in the country. The independence of the judiciary "cannot be relied upon" and "there is no freedom of expression", council member and Law Society Charity chair Nigel Dodds reports in Fiji: The Rule of Law Lost.
Dodds visited Fiji on a tourist visa in late 2011. Following the 2006 coup by Voreqe Bainimarama, ruled illegal by its court of appeal in 2009, Fiji is ruled by decree through emergency measures renewed every 30 days. Fiji (pop. 850,000 people) is currently suspended from the Commonwealth.
The report claims that Fiji’s Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has been central to ending the rule of law by limiting the power of the courts and ending the independence of legal sector regulation. Fiji’s late President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, revoked all judicial appointments in 2009. Dodds’ report reveals the extent to which the government depends on the appointment of judges and senior law officers from Sri Lanka on short-term contracts.
Chancery Lane’s human rights adviser, Courtenay Barklem, notes: "Judges have to have security of tenure. We don’t know how these judges are being selected."
Meanwhile, the country’s largest commercial law firm, Munro Leys, once the government of Fiji’s main provider of legal services, no longer receives government instructions, independent sources told Dodds.
The 2009 Administration of Justice Decree removed the jurisdiction of the court to hear or determine a challenge to any government action. This has now been supplemented with a practice direction, seen by Dodds, pinned to the walls of the courts, noting that the Chief Registrar will terminate any such case that slips through the net.
Dodds told the Gazette: "I found a significant number of lawyers endeavouring to do the best for their clients in intolerable circumstances. They deserve tremendous credit."
Previously criticised by the Law Society in open correspondence, a professional accreditation regime remains in place whereby the government issues practising certificates, Dodds reports. In 2011 the government refused to permit Fiji’s Law Society to hold its annual meeting.
Dodds’ subterfuge was deemed necessary following the refusal of the Fiji government to admit an International Bar Association delegation to the country in 2009. He funded the trip personally.
Fiji’s High Commission did not provide a comment on the report in the time available.
Stop Press: Check out the Graham Davis/Russell Hunter/Victor Lal/Crosbie Walsh media debate on the alleged "four would-be coups" of Bainimarama here.
>>> Popular Café Pacific Posts
AWARD-WINNING filmmakers Annie Goldson ( Brother Number One, An Island Calling ), and Kay Ellmers ( Canvassing the Treaty, Polynesian Panth...
New Zealand Labour MPs Louisa Wall and Kris Fa'afoi, a former journalist, speaking about the Marriage Amendment Bill and Pacific cul...
The arrests of more than 1600 protesters in West Papua earlier this week are part of a broader systematic oppression of Papuans by the I...
Photo: Del Abcede / PMC THE MOST astonishing unreported story in this week’s Pacific Island Forum in Auckland was a remarkable shift by t...
Greenpeace activists create a solar symbol around a world-famous Paris landmark, the Arc de Triomphe. © Greenpeace OPINION: By Kum...
This picture taken on January 18, 2015 shows a giant half-broken pencil near the headquarters of French satirical newspaper Charlie ...
MELBOURNE-based Fiji academic and commentator Dr Mosese Waqa (caricature) had some kind words to say about the Pacific Scoop coverage of t...
University of Papua New Guinea's Emily Matasororo ... in the bac k ground, images of heavily armed police shortly before they opene...
Mourners at the Auckland, New Zealand, vigil for Paris at the weekend. Photo: David Robie By Belen Fernandez AS NEWS arrived of terr...
MORE than 40 people with wide-ranging expertise will pool their knowledge and ideas and propose an action plan for peace at a two-day con...