19 Jun 2003

Fiji Supreme Court finishes hearing into multi-party cabinet case

8:14 am on 19 June 2003

Fiji's Supreme Court could deliver its decision on the multi-party cabinet case earlier than expected.

This follows the early conclusion of hearings after the three days set aside for submissions were not needed and the lawyers completed their arguments after the court sat for an extended session yesterday.

The government is appealing against earlier High Court and Appeal Court rulings that the Fiji labour Party is entitled to be part of the Qarase government under the multi-party provisions of the 1997 Constitution.

The Labour Party maintains that the current government is unconstitutional unless Labour becomes a part of it under the power sharing principles laid down in the constitution.

The government hired an Australian QC, Steven Gagler, to argue its case while the Labour Party engaged an Australian constitutional expert, Professor George Williams.

Mr Gagler argued that a multi-party concept is unworkable under Fiji's Westminster type of democracy.

Professor Williams said the multi-party government was enshrined in the Fiji constitution because of the political, ethnic and social realities of Fiji's society.

The Supreme Court is to deliver its judgement on notice but that could be as early as this afternoon or tomorrow.