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SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 28, 2001 – Fiji’s Daily Post)---Chief Justice Sir Timoci Tuivaga yesterday cleared the air on media reports concerning the high office.

[Also see: Public Judicial Row Breaks Out In Fiji; Fiji Justice Gates Enrages Chief Justice Tuivaga]

Internal confidential correspondence within the Judicial Department was leaked to a high-powered group who were trying to substantiate their calls for the resignation of Sir Timoci Tuivaga as CJ.

A media release from the CJ's office yesterday said the act was extremely reprehensible.

"Whoever leaked them was obviously politically motivated to embarrass the judiciary and the Government as much as possible," the secretary to the CJ said.

"It is most unworthy of the person or persons presumably intelligent who conspired in the dissemination of the department's official confidential correspondence. It was not meant for general public consumption."

Replying to calls for the CJ to resign, the secretary to the CJ said it should be made clear that CJ will retire from the judicial service when he sees fit to do so or if it is the express wish of His Excellency the President, whichever occurs first. The latter is the prerogative of the President under the Constitution.

Deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry's allegation about the CJ's retirement age being increased for his own benefit was a flagrant attempt to mislead the public and cause maximum mischief the statement said.

"The CJ's retirement age of 75 has been part of his terms and conditions of service well before the promulgation of the 1997 Constitution which fixed the retirement age of 70 for senior judges with possibility of an increase to 78, health permitting."

It appears many people have conveniently overlooked in the current debate the provisions of the High Court Act, which govern the administration of court business in the High Court.

The Act supplies that all Officers of the High Court and this includes the Chief Registrar, the Deputy Registrars and District Registrars shall discharge their duties "subject to such orders as they shall from time to time receive from the Chief Justice."

Another provision in the Act requires a Deputy Registrar or a District Registrar to discharge his/her duty "subject to such directions as the Chief Justice may from time to time deem expedient to give."

The instruction given to the Lautoka High Court registry was only restricted to possible court actions that were then anticipated relating to the appointment of the President and the Caretaker Government. It was all done in good faith.

The CJ as head of the judiciary was doing no more than exercising his power and authority as Administrative Head of the Judicial Department in relation to court registry matters in accordance with the aforesaid provisions and with Order 4 rule 1 of the High Court Rules (L.N. 37/1988 as amended) in mind and the Chief Justice's own Circular Memorandum No. 1 of 2000 on the subject, all of which for those interested are readily available for inspection at the High Court Registry in Suva.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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