21 May 2003

Fiji judiciary reported to be split

9:14 am on 21 May 2003

A Fiji newspaper has highlighted a major split in the country's judiciary over the actions of some judges during the coup.

The Daily Post reports today that this has resulted in Justice Michael Scott asking for formal proceedings to be convened in private by a senior and possibly overseas judge as an option to address the split.

The Post says that Justice Scott refused to go to a judges' retreat earlier this year and in a letter to the chief justice, Daniel Fatiaki, he cited events during and after the coup as the reason.

In the letter, Justice Scott says that Justice John Byrne, Nazhat Shameem and Anthony Gates were guilty of grave misconduct which resulted in the judiciary in general and Justice Scott in particular being brought into disrepute.

Justice Scott says that as a result of the actions of the three judges, who testified against the abrogation of the 1997 constitution, his career and general standing in Fiji have been very badly damaged.

Justice Scott and the former chief justice, Sir Timoci Tuivaga, had drafted decrees to purportedly abrogate the 1997 constitution after the coup but this was declared illegal by the Court of Appeal which declared the constitution still valid.

In his letter to justice Fatiaki, Justice Scott says under the circumstances, for the past two years or so, he has had no social dealings with Justice Byrne, Shameem and Gates and his professional relations with them have been at a minimum.

Justice Scott has outlined options to redress the situation one of which is to go ahead with legal proceedings against the three seeking declaratory relief and damages.