FIJI INTERIM GOVERNMENT TO 'REVIEW' COURT RULING

By Joe Yaya Pacific Journalism Online (USP)

SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 1, 2001 - (Pasifik Nius)---Fiji's interim regime says it will review the Court of Appeal ruling today before making a decision, although interim Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase had earlier said the administration would abide by the court's judgment.

The Interim Minister for Communication and Information, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, told Fiji Television tonight the regime was disappointed with the failure of its appeal.

He said the administration would make a statement after the interim Attorney General, Alipate Qetaki, presents the analysis of the "full judgment" before cabinet tomorrow.

"Cabinet will now have to look at the options available to it, and advise the president," Ratu Inoke said.

The Court of Appeal also declared Ratu Josefa Iloilo as acting president for three months after Ratu Kamisese Mara resigned on December 15, 2000, in accordance with section 88 of the 1997 Constitution.

Ratu Josefa's term as acting-president expires on March 15, unless he is appointed as President by the Great Council of Chiefs before this date under section 90 of the 1997 Constitution.

Meanwhile, the Great Council of Chiefs has scheduled a meeting for next Thursday in light of today's declaratory ruling, although GCC Chairman Sitiveni Rabuka is still away overseas.

Deposed Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Tupeni Baba said the ruling would become a precedent for similar situations around the world.

"This is a major success and victory for the principles of law and order and for the process of democracy, and a major commendation for the way the people of Fiji have held out through these difficult times," Dr. Baba said.

Deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry said he still saw himself as the lawful Prime Minister of Fiji.

Speaking to Radio Tirana in Auckland, New Zealand, from New Delhi, Chaudhry said: "The immediate priority is to get Parliament back, and once that is in its former shape, then other things can be discussed."

Deposed Deputy Prime Minister Adi Kuini Speed said her party, the Fijian Association Party, welcomed the court's decision.

"We are very excited and it's a great victory for democracy and for peace in Fiji," Adi Kuini said.

The respondent in the appeal case, Indo-Fijian refugee farmer Chandrika Prasad, changed the constitutional future of the country in his fight to declare the 1997 Constitution valid.

"I did it for the country, not for myself, so that our children can live properly," he said.

Title -- 3240 FIJI: Interim government to 'review' court ruling Date -- 1 March 2001 Byline -- Joe Yaya Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- USP Journalism, 1/3/1 Copyright -- USP Journalism Status -- Unabridged

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