24 Feb 2006

Fiji attorney general says coup convict can be president

10:38 am on 24 February 2006

The Fiji government's chief legal adviser says a coup convict can be appointed president or vice president of the country.

The Fiji Sun says this is the view of the attorney general, Qoriniasi Bale.

Mr Bale is quoted as saying the constitution does not address the issue.

He says there is nothing in the constitution to prevent the nomination of someone for the presidency or the vice presidency, convicted for their involvement in the coup.

A group of Tailevu chiefs is reported to be pushing for the return of the former vice president, Ratu Jope Seniloli, who is still serving his four-year jail sentence from home under a Compulsory Supervision Order.

Seniloli was forced to resign as vice president when he was jailed for taking an illegal oath to usurp the presidency during the coup while the legally appointed president, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, still held office.

Another name being mentioned for the presidency is that of the transport minister, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, who also served a jail sentence last year for illegal assembly during the Labasa army mutiny during the coup.

Lalabalavu holds the title of Tui Cakau, which makes him the highest ranking chief in Vanua Levu.

Fiji's military remains adamant that it will oppose the appointment of any coup-tainted chief to the two highest offices when the Great Council of Chiefs meets on March the 8th to make the decisions.