Thursday, January 11, 2007

Fiji: a legal challenge?

Fiji's Citizens Constitutional Forum is talking about challenging the legality of the military regime in the courts. And they'd have an excellent case. In the wake of the 2000 coup a similar case was launched challenging the legality of the intrim Qarase government and succeeded in gaining a ruling that the President's refusal to recall Parliament was inconsistent with the constitution. While it failed in its attempt to have the interim regime declared illegal, the point being considered moot, the Court of Appeal did rule that there were extremely tight constraints on the dismissal of a Prime Minister and appointment of a caretaker - essentially a Prime Minister can only dismissed if they actually lose a vote of confidence in the House, not just because the President (or the person pointing a gun at their head) wants them out. Iliolo's effective dismissal of Qarase and appointment of Bainimarama fails to meet those criteria, and I'd expect any court to follow precedent in saying so.

You have to wonder though what the military regime will do about this, given its demonstrated intolerance towards criticism and those questioning its rule. Will it sit back and allow the legal process to take its course, or will it simply pressure the judiciary and beat and imprison those who dare challenge their rule? On the evidence so far, my money is on the latter...