7 Mar 2008

Fiji interim government continues to claim executive privilege in legal challenge to coup

2:40 pm on 7 March 2008

Arguments during the challenge to the legality of the military overthrow of the Fiji government of Laisenia Qarase have today focussed on whether minutes from a critical meeting should be presented in the High Court.

It is the third day of preliminary argument ahead of a scheduled hearing starting on Tuesday.

The Fijilive website reports that the court is hearing arguments on whether the minutes of meetings between the President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, Mr Qarase and the coup leader Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama prior to the December 5 takeover should be presented in the High Court.

Lawyer for the interim Government,Queens Counsel Gerard McCoy, says such information cannot be disclosed without injury to the public interest.

He says it was likely to be quite unhelpful to distract the court from its main role - to safeguard public interest.

Yesterday, Mr Qarase's lawyer Nye Perram, QC, had argued that disclosure of what transpired at the high level meeting would help determine the legality or otherwise of the 2006 takeover by the military.

However, the interim Government argued the matter was executive privilege and not in the public interest.