Invitation Extended to New Zealand Law Society
The New Zealand Law Society’s (“NZLS”) concern about the independence of the Fiji judiciary being undermined is misplaced and recent comments made by the NZLS are ill-informed and just plain wrong.
These comments were made by Fiji Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary for Justice, Mr Christopher Pryde yesterday in reaction to reports that the NZLS had been advised that five Magistrates had recently been dismissed without notice.
Mr Pryde said that this was an old issue which happened last year and he questioned why this is being brought up again now.
Mr Pryde said that Judges and Magistrates in Fiji continue to have the freedom to decide cases on their own without interference from the executive branch of government.
In responding to the allegation by the NZLS that a Magistrate was dismissed for questioning the propriety of a prosecution against a human rights lawyer and her husband by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (“FICAC”), Mr Pryde said this was “just plain wrong”.
Mr Pryde said that it would appear that the NZLS is allowing itself to be used by certain people for their own ends and to further their own agendas. He said it was also disappointing that the NZLS was prepared to accept and quote NGO sources and questionable reports without attempting to check the facts or get a response from the Fiji authorities.
“No Magistrate or Judge has been dismissed for rejecting prosecution cases and it is disappointing that the NZLS should make such unsubstantiated allegations without first checking the facts. FICAC is an independent organisation and makes its own decisions with regards to prosecutions. The case brought against Imrana Jalal and her husband in relation to their restaurant has been transferred to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and is proceeding through the High Court in the normal manner. The more serious charges of corruption brought by FICAC against Mr Tuisolia in relation to his time as the CEO of Airports Fiji are also proceeding in the High Court.
It is also highly inappropriate for anyone to be making comments on matters that are before the courts. These matters will be decided by the courts and people have the right to appeal any decision if they so choose” he said.
Mr Pryde also said that it was ironic that the NZLS has concerns about the rule of law in Fiji but denies its members the opportunity to take up legal positions in Fiji by banning advertisements for legal positions in the NZLS publication Law Talk.
“If the NZLS was truly concerned about the rule of law in Fiji they should be actively supporting the rule of law in Fiji and reforms such as the establishment of the Independent Legal Services Commission to investigate lawyers.
To this end, I would like to extend an invitation to the NZLS to visit Fiji and to see first hand the progress that is being made in Fiji with regard to the rule of law” he said.