FIJI'S CHIEF MAGISTRATE SALESI TEMO COMES UNDER FIRE

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By Akanisi Motufaga

SUVA, Fiji (January 15, 1999 - Fiji Times/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Fiji's Chief Justice should urgently deal with Chief Magistrate Salesi Temo whose conduct was described by a High Court judge as appalling and attempting to mislead the court, according to some political parties.

The Fiji Times reports that one political party, the Fijian Association, has even called for the sacking of Mr. Temo in order to restore public confidence in the court system.

In a damning judgement released on Wednesday, Justice John Byrne found that Mr. Temo deleted material from the transcript of proceedings in his court which favored the accused, and he detained Deputy Director of Public prosecutions, Kenneth Wilkinson, in a cell for about 15 minutes for alleged contempt of court.

He also criticized Mr. Temo for directing the accused in a preliminary corruption inquiry hearing, former Fiji Government minister Ratu Ovini Bokini, to sit at the bar table instead of the dock.

When pressed for comment yesterday, Mr. Temo declined.

The Chief Registrar, Moti Rai, said: "The Judicial Service Commission has not yet had an opportunity to peruse and study the High Court ruling referred to."

Fiji Law Society president Peter Knight said he could not comment because he had not read the judgement.

Attorney-General Ratu Etuate Tavai said he had asked for a copy of the judgement and would relay his opinion to the Minister for Justice, Paul Manueli, later today.

He said it was not unusual for High Court judges to criticize magistrates. He said that only last week, an Appeal judge had criticized a High Court judge but this did not attract publicity.

Opposition Leader Jai Ram Reddy said he was saddened by what had happened and how it would affect the public's perception of the judiciary.

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