PUBLIC JUDICIAL ROW BREAKS OUT IN FIJI

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 27, 2001 – Radio Australia)---A major row between Fiji's Chief Justice and the High Court Judge who's landmark ruling on the Constitution put Fiji back on the path to democracy has become public and prompted calls for the Chief Justice to resign.

Radio Australia correspondent Sean Dorney reports that the Fiji Law Society will meet on Friday to discuss the affair.

"The row came to light with the publication in the Fiji Times of excerpts from letters written by the Chief Justice, Sir Timoci Tuivaga, and Mr. Justice Anthony Gates, the High Court Judge based in Lautoka who originally declared that the military installed interim government was illegal.

"The Gates ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeal. But in his letter, Sir Timoci accuses Justice Gates of judicial perversity for allegedly acting in haste on the Prasad case.

"Not for the first time, Sir Timoci directs Judge Gates to transfer all constitutional cases to Suva.

"In his reply, Justice Gates says he'll continue to accept writs filed against the appointment of the caretaker government, saying he won't accept what he calls unlawful directives.

"The now very public dispute has led to renewed pressure from within legal circles in Fiji for the Chief Justice to step down.

"Sean Dorney, Radio Australia, Suva."

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

 

FIJI JUSTICE GATES ENRAGES CHIEF JUSTICE TUIVAGA

By Margaret Wise

SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 27, 2001 - Fiji Times)---Chief Justice Sir Timoci Tuivaga has suggested that controversial judge Justice Anthony Gates find work elsewhere if he has no respect for the hierarchy of administrative power and authority within the judiciary.

He also accused Justice Gates of harming relations among judges by indulging in "judicial perversity" by making "ill-considered attacks" on two senior judges.

The attack followed Justice Gates’ refusal to entertain a directive by the Chief Justice that no court action surrounding the President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, and the Caretaker Government be accepted by the High Court in Lautoka.

In the circular dated March 20, 2001, the Chief Justice said any such court action should be dealt with by the High Court in Suva. But in reply the same day, Justice Gates challenged Sir Timoci to indicate the basis or legal foundation for the directive.

Sir Timoci then responded the next day with a two-page lecture on what he thought of Justice Gates’ conduct over recent months, particularly on the Chandrika Prasad case.

"Lest you do not appreciate it, the directive was issued in my capacity as Chief Justice and Head of the Judiciary in the Republic of Fiji. It was issued in pursuance of my overall responsibility for the proper and effective administration of court business throughout Fiji," Sir Timoci said.

"Your precipitate conduct to go it alone without heeding CJ’s advice in relation to the Chandrika Prasad case in defiance of administrative protocol was foolhardy. This was so in as much as there were other constitutional cases pending at the time that could have been looked at."

"The haste with which you seemed bent to commence and dispose of the Chandrika Prasad case has raised questions about the integrity of the judicial system. Standing on technical rules of procedure by invoking your own interpretation thereon to justify your action was highly inappropriate in view of my clear directions on the matter."

Sir Timoci said in the same case Justice Gates "went outside the proper bounds of propriety by launching a gratuitous and ill-considered personal attack on two judges more senior than yourself."

"Why you saw fit to indulge in such judicial perversity in breach of the judicial culture of this country defies comprehension." At the heart of that culture is the respect a judge should have for his fellow judges and the maintenance of the court and personal dignity.

Criticizing another judge in one’s own court judgment is not smart but downright disgraceful and odious. It is unprecedented in court circles.

"Your action has had the unfortunate effect of exposing the judicial service to public opprobrium, not to mention the great harm it has done and is doing to the collegial goodwill that should exist among judges in this country. The five members of the Court of Appeal had no doubt found the whole thing most edifying by omitting to make any reference whatsoever in their judgment to the matter."

"If I may say so, the foregoing highlights the extreme importance of recognizing and respecting the hierarchy of administrative power and authority within the judiciary of this country. If a judge or magistrate should feel unable to bring himself/herself to work within this established regime, such person would be well advised to explore other work environment where the rules of administrative propriety do not apply."

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times. 

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