COURT HEARS FIJI CONSTITUTION ONE OF THE FINEST IN THE WORLD

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (February 21, 2001 – ABC News Online/Pasifik Nius)---London-based Australian lawyer Geoffrey Robertson has told Fiji’s Court of Appeal that the country’s 1997 Constitution is one of the finest in the world in terms of safeguarding indigenous rights.

Mr. Robertson is representing an Indo-Fijian farmer who won a High Court judgment last November that the Constitution remains valid and intact.

That ruling means Fiji’s interim civilian government installed by the military following the May 19 coup attempt by George Speight and colleagues is illegal.

Presenting Chandrika Prasad’s case that Judge Anthony Gates ruling be upheld, Mr. Robertson told the five judges that the 1997 Constitution was innovative in squaring indigenous rights with the rights of other citizens in a way that did not become an obnoxious racial supremacy.

He said the interim government had argued that there were wide perceptions among indigenous Fijians that the Constitution did not protect their rights, but those perceptions were not valid.

Mr. Robertson also rejected the interim government’s criticism of the preferential voting system, saying the win by Mahendra Chaudhry’s People’s Coalition Government was not due to a biased or skewed result.

Mr. Robertson will continue his submissions today.

Title -- 3221 FIJI: Court hears Fiji Constitution one of the finest in the world Date -- 21 February 2001 Byline – None Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source --ABC News Online, 0839 AEDT, via hayes_m@usp.ac.fj , 21/2/1  Copyright – ABC Status -- Unabridged

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