Fri, Apr 10, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Fiji court says government is illegal


A Fiji court yesterday ruled the country’s military regime was illegally appointed after a 2006 coup and said a caretaker prime minister should be appointed to call elections to restore democracy.

Military leader Voreqe Bainimarama said the ruling meant Fiji effectively had no legal government in place, but added the military would ensure there was no disruption to law and order.

The Fiji Court of Appeal overturned a court judgment last year that rejected an application by ousted prime minister Laisenia Qarase for the appointment of military leader Voreqe Bainimarama’s regime to be ruled illegal.

Last October’s ruling said President Ratu Josefa Iloilo had acted legally in asking Bainimarama to form an interim government after the bloodless coup, the fourth in the South Pacific nation in two decades.

That judgment said the president had the power to dismiss a government and appoint an interim prime minister in a crisis, under powers implied in the Constitution.

But the Court of Appeal rejected that argument, saying such powers did not exist.

“In our opinion, the only appropriate course at this time is for elections to be held to enable Fiji to get a fresh start,” Justice Randall Powell said in delivering the judgment.

The court stopped short of granting Qarase’s request to be reinstated as the legally appointed prime minister of the country of around 900,000 people.

“It would seem to us it would be advisable for the president to overcome the present situation by appointing a distinguished person independent of the parties to this litigation as interim prime minister to advise a dissolution of the parliament,” the judgment said. “This would enable Fiji to be restored to democratic rule in accordance with the Fiji Constitution.”

Bainimarama said his interim government would appeal against the latest decision, but he added the security forces would ensure there was no disruption to law and order. Bainimarama said he had visited the president, who would soon announce a response to the judgment.

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