23 Jun 2004

Fiji vice-president rejects calls for his resignation

10:35 am on 23 June 2004

It's been announced in Fiji that the vice-president, Ratu Jope Seniloli, will not resign ahead of his High Court trial on serious coup-related charges.

The chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, had asked the vice president to step down in a move supported by the Citizens Constitutional Forum.

But Fiji TV quotes the vice president's protocol officer, Paula Kunabuli, as saying Ratu Jope is innocent and remains so until the court proves otherwise.

Mr Kunabuli says any decision whether Ratu Jope resigns or not will be made when the trial ends.

Ratu Jope has been charged with taking an illegal oath to commit a capital offence and another of engaging in a seditious enterprise for purporting to become the usurper president after the coup while the incumbent, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, was still in office.

Australia has sent the most senior prosecutor in New South Wales, Mark Tedeschi QC, to conduct the prosecution free of charge with the trial due to begin in days.

Stringent security measures will be put in place around the Suva courts during the trial and the presiding judge, Justice Nazhat Shameem, witnesses and the state prosecutors will be under guard