23 Aug 2004

Jailed Fiji vice president refused bail - appeal likely in November

4:29 pm on 23 August 2004

Fiji's jailed vice president, Ratu Jope Seniloli, will remain in prison, after an Appeal Court turned down his bail application this morning.

Seniloli has been jailed for four years for his role in the 2000 coup.

The deputy speaker of parliament, Ratu Rakuita Vakalalabure, and three others also had their bail applications refused.

Lawyers for Seniloli and Vakalalabure had asked for their release so they could continue to hold their offices.

But the Appeal Court president, Justice Gordon Ward, ruled that were no exceptional circumstances justifying their release.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, Ratu Ovini Bokini, says the chiefs will now await further legal advice from the attorney general, Qoriniasi Bale, before deciding on the next course of action.

The Great Council of Chiefs is the appointing authority for the president and the vice president.

The opposition leader, Mick Beddoes, says the court has made its decision and the people have to learn to respect the rule of law.

Earlier, the military commander and the police commissioner had both issued stern warnings to politicians planning to incite public anger in an attempt to overturn the High Court ruling to jail Seniloli.

Commodore Bainimarama and Andrew Hughes said these elements were under were under surveillance and would be taken in if necessary because this time around the security forces will have zero tolerance.

Fiji's Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua party says it will exhaust all avenues under the law after the today's ruling.

A spokesperson, Senator Ratu Josefa Dimuri, says they must study the decision first before making any decision.

"We have agreed, you know, to let the law take its course and we will abide by the ruling of the courts. And, certainly we will try and exhaust all avenues available under the law to get these cases resolved."

Ratu Josefa Dimuri.

He is to stand trial in Labasa on charges related to the 2000 insurrection on Vanua Levu.

The Fiji Labour party is again calling on the vice-president to resign.

A Labour spokesperson, Krishna Datt, says Seniloli should go or the president should act to remove him.

Given the present circumstance, it would be highly unlikely that anyone can function as a vice-president serving a sentence in jail. That's not likely to happen so the position has to be filled. And, given the health conditions of the president himself, it would be important for the country to speedily resolve this issue and to make a fresh appointment.

Labour spokesperson, Krishna Datt.