DECISION ON CABINET MAKEUP EXPECTED BY FIJI COURT OF APPEAL ON FRIDAY

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (February 14, 2002 – Radio Australia)---Fiji's Court of Appeal has retired to decide on Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry's claim to a place in the government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

Radio Australia correspondent Ofa Kaukimoce reports from Suva.

"The two overseas Queens Counsels representing Chaudhry and Qarase concluded their submissions today before the five appeal court judges.

"Mr Chaudhry's lawyer Gavin Griffith argued that his client should be part of Mr. Qarase's government as required under section 99 sub-section 3 of the 1997 constitution. He said it was mandatory for Mr. Qarase to establish a multi party government that included the Labour Party.

"However, the Prime Minister's lawyer, Stephen Gagler, submitted his client is empowered to include or reject Mr. Chaudhry. They claim that Mr. Chaudhry had made demands, which were rejected by Mr. Qarase.

"The country eagerly awaits another landmark constitutional decision.

"The five Judges of Appeal have announced they expect to deliver their decision on Friday.

"Ofa Kaukimoce, Radio Australia News, Suva."

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

 

COUNSELS WRAP UP FIJI CABINET MAKEUP CASE

SUVA, Fiji Islands (February 14, 2002 – Daily Post/FijiLive)---Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase should have been allowed to make a conditional offer to Labour to be part of Government, as he was the leader of the party that had the majority seats in the House of Representatives.

However, State counsel Stephen Gagler yesterday said the multi-party Cabinet concept would launch the country into a period of experimentation which Fiji could ill afford.

He also said the Constitution is not so clear and creates confusion with sections open for interpretation and legal challenge.

Mr. Gagler said that Mr Qarase had made the invitation to Labour leader Mahendra Chaudhry to join his Government with clear guidelines about the policies that would be adopted by his party.

However, Justice Kenneth Handley said that it seemed as if Mr. Qarase had tried to put the cart before the horse by saying FLP could join but on certain conditions.

Mr. Gagler responded by saying that Mr. Chaudhry had also set conditions when he accepted the invitation but said his party's participation in Government and in Cabinet would be on the conditions set out in the Korolevu Declaration that dictated how a multiparty government would work.

He said Mr. Qarase saw the purported acceptance as a rejection of the invitation and the basic condition that policies would be based on the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua manifesto.

He said that the critical condition of the purported acceptance did not correspond with the critical condition of the invitation, with the acceptance not contributing to a stable or workable Government.

Sitting judge on the case, Sir Kenneth Keith, said it was important to note whether Mr. Qarase had acted reasonably.

He said the conditions of invitation had to be determined whether they had been conditional or unconditional and whether the judgment in the last court ruling on the challenge by the Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei against FLP in 1999 was consistent with those being done now.

He asked what conditions would Mr. Qarase have accepted from FLP, to which Mr. Gagler did not respond.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gagler also raised concern over the Constitution.

He said that if it has turned government "upside down," it surely could not be regarded as an effective constitution.

He said that the Prime Minister had tried to work according to the Constitution but the concept just could not work because the principles of the two parties were totally opposite from each other.

He argued that the Constitution stipulated the invitation had to be extended to the party that had more than 10 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives but it did not say anything specific about the offer being accepted.

Mr. Gagler said the SDL government could not be roped into the Korolevu Agreement because not only were they not party to it but also because the past elections had shown it would not work.

Justice Kenneth Handley asked why the Korolevu Declaration would not work and Mr. Gagler responded that even the architects of the Constitution, the SVT party, had lost out in the last elections despite talks of voting along multiracial lines, and their coalition concept with the National Federation Party.

He also argued that the multiparty concept in Fiji was different from all those practiced in other countries.

He said it was simply impractical and ensured racial division.

He said the concept that was suggested in the Reeves Report was for a multi-ethnic party but this was difficult in Fiji with people so opposed to each other racially, which showed in the results of the elections.

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/FijiLive.

For additional reports from FijiLive, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/FijiLive.

 

FIJI PM’S OBLIGATIONS REGARDING CABINET DEFINED

By Matelita Ragogo

SUVA, Fiji Islands (February 14, 2002 – Fiji Times)---The Prime Minister is obligated to issue an invitation to parties entitled to Cabinet participation rather than his coalition partners.

And one of the prices of the constitutional provision requiring formation of a multi-party Cabinet is losing one's identity.

Summing up before the Court of Appeal yesterday, Labour lawyer Gavin Griffiths QC said in essence, Mr. Qarase's action of having his coalition partners in Cabinet could be for the security of his position.

Earlier, State lawyer Stephen Gagley QC said the Government feared information leaks from Cabinet if Labour MPs were present.

Mr. Griffiths said Cabinet secrecy was normal for all governments. "To ensure you stay in power, you only have like-minded people,'' he said.

"Correspondences speak for themselves; there has been compliance (in offering) but non-compliance after that.''

Mr. Griffiths said to have Labour people in Cabinet would ensure healthy debate but as secrecy of Cabinet was government's norm, everything would still be kept secret.

Summing up the State's case, Mr Gagley said yesterday the acceptance of the Korolevu Declaration by the court would turn this country upside down.

"Its acceptance would leave the country in a period of constitution experimentation which it can ill-afford,'' Mr. Gagley said. "It will turn the Government upside down. We submit that the PM complied with Section 99. He gave an invitation in good faith.''

Mr. Gagley said that more significant was the fact that the declaration, which was endorsed by all political parties in January 1999, had not worked after the first general elections of May 1999.

The declaration was used extensively by FLP's legal team in its attempt to claim its entitlement in Cabinet.

Mr. Qarase's Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party was not a signatory, as it was non-existent at the time.

Mr. Gagley submitted that although the Prime Minister was obligated to invite parties entitled to participate in forming a Cabinet, it said nothing about offers or conditions.

Submissions by both parties ended at about 1:30 p.m. yesterday and the panel of judges is expected to deliver its ruling tomorrow.

The members of the Court of Appeal are Justice Sir Thomas Eichelbaum (acting president), Justice Kenneth Keith, Justice Robert Smellie, Justice Gordon Ward and Justice Kenneth Handley.

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

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