September 21, 2012

Fiji parties want inquiry into justice system

Updated 21 September 2012, 17:17 AEST

Fiji's main political parties have banded together to jointly call for an inquiry into the workings of the justice systemThis follows claims by a former Fiji Appeal Court judge, William Marshall, about interference in the system by the Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

The President of the United Peoples Party, Mick Beddoes, explains what the political party leaders would like to see happen.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker:The President of Fiji's United Peoples Party, Mick Beddoes

BEDDOES: It's to urge the President an independent judicial inquiry into the claims made by Justice Marshall. We further suggest that the attorney general step down from office to allow a free hand into the inquiry, because until this happens and the air is cleared, people here and abroad will continue to speculate about the state of our judiciary. I guess those who have read the petition of Justice Marshall will be as dumbfounded and as shocked as we have all been with respect to the extent which he alleges this situation is within the supposedly independent judiciary in Fiji.

HILL: Which political parties have come together to issue this joint statement?

BEDDOES: The SLD, the Fiji Labour Party, the United People's Party and the National Federation Party.

HILL: Is it unusual for the political parties in Fiji to join forces in this way?

BEDDOES: I wouldn't think so. I mean if we had a elected parliamentary process in place, an elected government, I would suggest you could call this unusual, but that's not our situation. We are in a dictatorship, we are responding to a statement that comes from a former employee of the regime no less. Justice Marshall has nothing to do with any of the political parties. We were not party to his appointment, nor were we party to his departure and he worked for two years as the Court of Appeal judge no less.

HILL: W hat about Justice Marshall's credibility. He served two years, but his contract was not renewed and it's fairly clear that he a big falling out with the attorney general. Couldn't his words and actions be said to be those of a disgruntled former employee?

BEDDOES: Well, I would imagine members of the regime would say exactly that and if yeah, reading the document as I have. He's clearly upset about the fact that his term was not extended or his contract was not extended and he sounds like somebody who does want to have his job back And I think by putting that aside, I think inadvertently in trying to justice why he perhaps needs to reappointed, his come out and listed a whole swag of allegations, very serious allegations about fixing of outcomes of court cases and all sorts of things and this is after the attorney general and the government has gone to great pains to reassure everybody in Fiji that the division in Fiji is absolutely independent.

HILL: You've said that Fiji is living in your words under a dictatorship, so why would the interim government pay any attention to you and the other political party leaders? Surely they're going to take your petition and throw it in the bid?

BEDDOES: We're not the ones making the petition, that's Justice Marshall. We're simply making a joint statement and we're calling on the president in that joint statement to take action. Now he's the President at the moment and he's the one that has the appointing authority of the judges. Now this is a serious matter and he needs to step up and take some corrective action and we're suggesting an independent judicial inquiry is essential to bring back credibility to the judiciary. And let's not forget Justice Marhsall's petition comes on the heels of many of the previous appointments by the regime who have been recruited particularly from Sri Lanka and then who have been dismissed and they have made statements prior to this and there's been many others, including the statement by the Law Society of England, which was again dismissed by the regime. This was the visit by Nigel Dodds and he made again a statement that spoke of the compromise state of Fiji's judiciary and the lack of transparency in our legal system, so these are very serious allegations and Justice Marshall is not the only one. He's just the current of many such statements coming from members of the judiciary appointed by this very regime.

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