FIJI LAWYERS WORRIED ABOUT INTIMIDATION

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, May 30) – The Fiji Law Society is worried the profession may be under threat if lawyers are detained by the military for representing their clients.

Society president Devanesh Sharma said this would lead to fear, intimidation and suppression of the bar.

Mr Sharma said the detainment of lawyers Kitione Vuataki and Ratu Savenaca Komaisavai last weekend was of great concern. He said freedom of the bar was an absolute necessity in every country.

"However, all of us, whether we are lawyers or ordinary citizens must also act within the confines of the law," Mr Sharma said.

He said if lawyers involved in high profile cases against the State were being detained or intimidated, it affected the freedom of the bar.

"It would be a sad day for Fiji if lawyers turn away clients because of fear," he said.

Mr Vuataki and Ratu Savenaca are representing chiefs who are challenging in court the suspension of the Great Council of Chiefs meetings.

They have named interim Fijian Affairs Minister Ratu Epeli Ganilau and interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama as respondents in the case.

Mr Sharma said the society was concerned about the detention of any person, irrespective of whether he or she was a lawyer.

Interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said no lawyer had been detained by the military or any other security agencies after December 5 because they had represented clients who had brought an action against the interim Government.

"It is completely misrepresentative and devious to suggest even for a minute that the government or any of the security agencies are preventing lawyers from representing their clients," he said.

He said the detention of the two lawyers had nothing to do with their involvement in the GCC case.

He said their detention was in respect of allegations of incitement.

"All citizens including lawyers should they breach the law or have allegations of breaches shall be investigated and questioned," he said.

Mr Sharma said the society would also ask members of the media to exercise caution when reporting on issues.

"It would appear certain authorities react to media statements or stories and arrest or detain people on the basis of these media reports," he said.

He said the media must get its stories factually correct. He said he was disappointed with the misinterpretation of Dr Muhammad Shamsud-din Sahu Khan's paper on native land.

"Dr Sahu Khan presented a very thought-provoking and intellectual paper that should be looked at constructively," he said.

"Intellectual thought should not be suffocated or suppressed in any form.

"The views in the paper were presented by Dr Sahu Khan as a senior constitutional lawyer."

In the paper, Dr Sahu Khan said the claim that about 90 per cent of land in Fiji was native land was questionable.

This was part of his presentation at a continuing legal education seminar in Suva earlier this month.

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