18 Jun 2003

Fiji supreme court hears key constitutional case

5:12 am on 18 June 2003

Fiji's Supreme Court will today begin hearing a constitutional case to determine whether the Labour Party should be part of the Laisenia Qarase Government.

The High Court and the Court of Appeal have already ruled that Labour should be part of the Government.

This is based on a provision of the 1997 Constitution which entitles all political parties with at least ten percent of the seats in the House of Representatives to be part of an inclusive, multi party Government.

But Mr Qarase has opposed Labour's inclusion on the grounds that it would produce an unworkable government and appealed the previous court decisions.

Four senior overseas appeal court judges will preside over the case when it begins in Suva this morning.

Security will be tight around the courts and the army will be on standby in case of disturbances by extreme nationalist opponents of the Labour Party when the court's judgement is delivered.

Australia, New Zealand, Britain, the United States and the European Union are closely monitoring the case and say they want to see Fiji complying fully with the constitution.