(+) Whose Court Smells of Rotten Fish?
The normally "moderate" and well informed anti-Government blog Fiji Today has published what some could believe to be a subtantiated post on the Bainimarama assassination plot trial that claims the verdict was staged. The post is titled "The Smell of Rotten Fish in the Courthouse."
The blog said in investigating the story it (presumably one of the four editors) held "several clandestine meetings with a senior serving officer in the RFMF" and from these meetings with this one officer of unknown rank and unknown access to information on military personnel or court procedures, the blog claims it can confirm:
- The Chief Registrar of the High Court army lawyer Major Ana Rokomokoti is still listed as being on active duty with the RFMF.
- The Chief Registrar nominated both the judge and the assessors for this case.
- Three of the five assessors in this case are serving or territorial members of the military.
- The lawyers concerned were in no position to argue against the choices of the Chief Registrar Major Rokomokoti as she is also the person who gets to decide if they are issued with a practicing license to be a lawyer.
Their first claim is accepted. It is no secret that many military people are currently performing civilian functions. Ana Rokomokoti is a qualified lawyer fully capable of performing the tasks of Chief Registrar.
Their second claim is false. The Chief Registrar did not pick the judge or the assessors. The High Court criminal registry has a system of random case allocation which is monitored by the judges themselves, and not by the Chief Registrar.
Their third claim is also false. No member of the military was an asssessor and defence counsel were specifically asked to verify that this was case.
Their fourth claim is speculation. Assessors are vetted by the prosecution and the defence in a pre-trial conference.
There is no objective way of knowing or testing the professional integrity of the lawyers, the judge or the Chief Registrar, although some I know who attending the trial thought the evidence pretty conclusive, and the assessors' guilty verdict was unanimous.
Disagreeing with their verdict is an insufficient ground to question their integrity.