COURT’S RULING SETS DANGEROUS PRECEDENT Citizens group says ruling encourages future coups

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Oct. 9, 2008) - Today’s Fiji High Court decision to dismiss ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase’s case in questioning the legality of the 2006 military takeover sets a precedent for encouraging future coups.

The comment was made in a statement by the Citizens Constitutional Forum (CCF).

CCF chair Tessa Mackenzie said they were seriously concerned about it.

The three member panel of judges led by Justice Anthony Gates upheld as valid and lawful the appointment of Dr. Jona Senilagakali as caretaker Prime Minister and his submission that Parliament be dissolved; the President’s decision to rule directly by promulgation; the President’s power to promulgate laws and the decision to grant immunity to those behind or involved in the takeover.

The panel found that the President’s actions during the period in question were valid because there was no other course of action reasonably available.

"We find that the President’s actions were designed to protect a wide variety of competing interests," Justice Gates said. "The Constitution remained and remains intact and we therefore find the President’s actions to be valid."

The case was brought by ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and his SDL party two years after the coup.

Qarase and members of his multi-party government had asked the court to make several declarations, including the legality or otherwise of his December 5, 2006, ousting by the military and other ensuing events such as the appointment of the interim regime.

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