Fiji Times and Fijilive have been quick off the mark to announce an important court decision today. Sobosobo Lorini and co, you owe me a good dinner of fish in lolo with the trimmings!
Fiji High Court stops Charter work
The Fiji High Court has ordered the interim Government to stop all work on the draft People’s Charter for Change, Peace and Progress. The order was handed down by High Court judge Justice Filimoni Jitoko after midday today.
Justice Jitoko ordered that the interim Government stop “promulgating any law, decree order or doing or recommending anything whatsoever to alter or amend the 1997 Constitution or anything whatsoever, including changes to the electoral system that are contrary to or inconsistent with current provisions of the Constitution until the final determination of this matter”.
As well, the interim Government has been ordered to stop distributing articles, leaflets, forms and announcements, advertisements and publication on radio, television, newspapers and any other form of media to secure support for the document.
Other orders stop the interim Government from convening public meetings to promote the Charter and restrain the interim Government from using civil servants and government facilities to promote the Charter.
The final order stops the interim Government or its representatives from appropriating and paying any public funds to the National Council for Building a Better Fiji – the body charged with drawing up the Charter.
The case was brought to court by Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua leader, deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.
The proceedings have now been adjourned to 10am next Tuesday for directions on the hearing of the plaintiffs’ originating summons.
Qarase and the SDL are plaintiffs in the case and Justice Jitoko has ordered that court costs of $1200 be paid to them.
and from Fiji Times
High Court order against State
Friday, November 14, 2008
Update: 2:12PM The High Court in Suva today passed five orders that will stop further work on the draft Peoples Charter and the interim government from promulgating any law.
The five orders by the High Court judge Justice Filimone Jitoko are:
Firstly, that the interim government of itself or by and through the defendant their agents and/or their representatives restrained from promulgating any law, decree order, or doing or recommending anything whatsoever to alter or amend the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of Fiji, that are contrary or inconsistent with the current provision of the Constitution until the final determination of this matter.
Secondly, that the interim government of itself or by and through the defendants their agents and/or their representatives restrained from distributing articles, leaflets, forms and through announcements, advertisements and publication on radio, television, newspaper and any form of media for the purpose of securing public support for changes to the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of Fiji and/or supporting and promoting the Peoples Charter until the final determination of this action.
Third order, that the interim government of itself or by and through the defendants their agents and/or their representatives restrained from conveying public meetings and gathering in any part of the country or any form of meeting whatsoever to promote and obtain support for the amendment of 1997 Constitution of the Republic of Fiji and the Peoples Charter generally until the final determination of this action.
Forth order passed, that the interim government of itself or by and through the defendants their agents and/or their representatives restrained from engaging and utilising civil servants and government machinery including vehicles, personnel, building, office equipments etc to promote and obtain support for the amendments of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of Fiji and the Peoples Charter general until the final determination of this action.
The last order by the High Court, that the interim government of itself or by and through the defendants their agents and/or their representatives restrained from appropriating and paying any public funds to the National Council for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF), its agents and/or representatives until the final determination of this action.
The next court proceeding will be held next Tuesday for the judges direction on the hearing of the complainants originating summons.
The defendants in this matter are President Ratu Josefa Iloilovatu, interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, interim Attorney General Mr Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Archbishop Petero Mataca and NCBBF's Mr John Samy.
(later: And six hours later, the reaction!)
from editorial of Fiji Sun:
A day of drama in the court
In what must be one of the fastest legal processes in Fiji's legal history, a ruling by a High Court judge halting the draft People's Charter process was stayed by an acting judge of the same court only hours after it was given. The ruling by Justice Filimone Jitoko delivered at 11am was stayed - that is halted - by Acting Justice John Byrne. Justice Jitoko had ruled in an action brought by ousted prime minister Laisenia Qarase and the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party seeking to have the People's Charter process declared illegal. Justice Jitoko ruled that the charter process should cease at once pending a final judgment in the case. Approximately five hours later Justice Jitoko's ruling was stayed by acting Justice Byrne on the application of the interim attorney general. According to Mr Qarase's and the SDL's legal team, they heard of the stay order only through the media. There is as yet no available written stay order, though the interim attorney's statement that such a verbal order exists cannot be doubted. Nevertheless, this is a massive setback for the interim government - whether the stay order is permanent or not. As has been repeatedly pointed out by this newspaper as well as other organisations and individuals, the charter cannot be implemented without amendments to the constitution which the interim government has consistently stated is the supreme law of the land. The status of the constitution was further confirmed in the High Court judgment that legitimised the coup. It was further cogently stated in yesterday's judgment by Justice Filimone Jitoko: the constitution can only be amended by an elected parliament. So where now for the draft People's Charter? The direction is at best unclear. The precise reasons for the stay order are not known. It is believed that acting Justice Byrne will give his reasons on Monday. Until then, the Jitoko judgment is without legal force. What, then, does it all mean for Fiji's return to democratic rule? At this early stage it is difficult to see how the conundrum of the constitution versus the charter can be resolved. Commodore Bainimarama's position - no charter, no election - seems highly unlikely to alter. At the same time the court's stayed injunction may yet gain the full force of law. That remains to be seen. These are difficult and highly uncertain times for Fiji - but ultimately the rule of law must prevail. The nation will now urgently await the final decision of the court on this vital matter. And in his judgment yesterday, Justice Jitoko acknowledged the fact of the national importance, urgency and intense public interest of this case. Of course it is vital to the interest of justice that all the parties will be heard and a fair judgment delivered. Similarly, the stay order can no doubt be challenged at law. But at the end of the day justice will be done and no matter the final outcome that's what we should all hope for and respect.