RIGHTS AGENCY REPORT JUSTIFIES MILITARY COUP

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan. 4) – The Fiji Human Rights Commission has released a 32-page report, which says the government overthrown in the December 5 coup was not the legitimate and democratically-elected government of Fiji.

The report, penned by Commission director Dr Shaista Shameem, says FHRC believes "that the legal basis of the 2001 elections is in doubt and that the Government of 2006 appeared not to have been elected according to the provisions of the 1997 Constitution".

Dr Shameem said in the report it would be up to the courts to decide any legality or illegality regarding the army commanders takeover of the government.

On the 2000 coup, the report says the Chandrika Prasad court case judgment was that the Peoples Coalition was the legitimate government and President Ratu Josefa Iloilo erred when he dismissed Mahendra chaudhry as Prime Minister and set up the interim government led by caretaker Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

[PIR editor’s note: See the full text of the Fiji Human Rights Commission here.]

Dr Shameem said in the report that "since the Court of Appeal had observed that the Presidents reserve powers under the duty of necessity were circumscribed by Constitution and that he could not have used those powers to dismiss a Prime Minister on a perceived loss of confidence, we reach the obvious conclusion that the President's actions in dismissing the Government of Prime Minister Chaudhry without recalling Parliament were not legal and could not be justified even under the wide reserve powers given to a head of state under the doctrine of necessity".

She said that if Ratu Josefa's decision was unconstitutional in 2001, so were the subsequent events which included the appointment of the caretaker prime minister to dissolve Parliament, appointment of Caretaker Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and the 2001 elections, because Mr Chaudhry's government should have continued until 2004.

The report said the 2001 elections were therefore based, not on an extra-constitutional duty of necessity, but on a series of executive decisions that the Court of Appeal ruled was unconstitutional making the validity of the 2001 election questionable.

It said on this basis the Qarase government ruled from 2001 to 2005 on an unconstitutional act.

The report also looks into the SDL-led governments human right record and says that during the course of its first five year term, the Qarase government did everything in its power to undermine the constitution and expanded beyond reason all the limitation clauses in the Bill of Rights provisions to justify its anti-human rights and discriminatory policies.

The FHRC says the Affirmative Action and the Blueprint policies were declared unconstitutional by the Commission but the deposed prime minister said the decision was political.

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