18 Apr 2009

Fiji judiciary butchered, says law society

7:47 pm on 18 April 2009

The head of the Fiji Law Society says the country's "butchered" judiciary will no longer be independent.

A presidential decree has been issued to pave the way for the appointment of new judges after the President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo sacked the judiciary last weekend.

The decree scraps the Law Society's representation on the Judicial Service Commission - the organisation that makes judicial appointments.

The society's president, Dorsami Naidu believes the society's absence from the commission will enable the interim government to select judges who back it.

But interim Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khayum says the commission's new structure makes it more inclusive than it was before.

He says there is no threat to the judiciary's independence, which he believes was compromised before the 2006 coup.

Aiyaz Sayed-Khayum says some judges will be appointed on Monday and courts could reopen on Tuesday.

The decree further restricts the jurisdiction of the courts from hearing any challenges, "including any application for a judicial review", to the President's declaration that the 1997 constitution's was abrogated.

But Peter Williams QC, a senior criminal lawyer who has practised in Fiji, says under the new body the calibre of judges selected will fall.

"A judge is not a judge unless he is independent. The whole essence of the judicial system is independence and if you take away that quality you don't have a judge at all, you just have a government stooge official," he said.

Mr Williams says Fiji's new judicial arrangements will make it difficult for people who do not back the interim government.

Fjii has been placed under emergency rule and military leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama has tightened media censorship and continued to refuse to hold elections before 2014.

Fiji sports team to compete in NZ

New Zealand Volleyball says the Fiji women's team's opening match in the Oceania Zonal Championships will go ahead on Monday, in Porirua.

On Friday night it was feared Fiji's participation in the tournament, which involves eight teams from Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and New Zealand, looked doubtful because of visa issues.

New Zealand Volleyball president, Allan Brodie says nine of the women's team have their visas but he understands New Zealand immigration is seeking more information before visas for two others are issued.

He says clarification of a relative's links with Fiji's military is thought to be behind the delay.