30 Sep 2002

Fiji president declines to take part in Government's appeal to Supreme Court

11:58 am on 30 September 2002

A report from Fiji says the president, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, has asked to take no part in the Qarase government's Supreme Court case appealing the prime minister's decision to exclude the Labour Party from his cabinet after last year's general election.

The Daily Post reports that this is because the President's Office feels that the president was only acting on the advice of the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, when he appointed the cabinet.

The president swore in the cabinet based on Mr Qarase's advice that he could form a government which had the confidence of the House of Representatives.

After a legal challenge by the Labour Party, the High Court, backed by the Court of Appeal, ordered that the Fiji Labour Party was constitutionally entitled to be part of the current cabinet in proportion to its numbers in parliament because it had more than 10 per cent of the seats in the House.

The government has appealed this decision to the Supreme Court.

But the new chief justice, Daniel Fatiaki, says the case has no priority over other cases waiting to be heard by the Supreme Court.

This is despite criticism that the case is critical to the future of Fiji because all new aid from the European Union depends on the outcome of the Supreme Court ruling.