Military coup was illegal, rules Fiji court

April 9th, 2009 - 1:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Wellington, April 9 (DPA) Fiji’s Court of Appeal Thursday ruled that the military coup that ousted an elected government in December 2006 was illegal, according to reports from the capital Suva.
The court ruled that military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama’s government was unlawfully appointed and the president should appoint an independent caretaker prime minister to dissolve parliament and call a general election.

Bainimarama, who appointed himself prime minister after taking over, has refused calls by New Zealand, Australia, the European Union, the US and the Pacific Islands Forum to restore democracy by holding fresh elections this year.

The decision of the three judges of the Court of Appeal overturned a decision by the High Court that held that Bainimarama’s regime was legitimate.

But the panel rejected a call by attorneys for ousted prime minister Laisenia Qarase that he be reinstated pending new elections, the independent Fijilive website reported.

Bainimarama, who accused Qarase’s government of being corrupt and biased in favour of the indigenous Fijian majority against the ethnic Indian minority, has refused to go to the polls until a new one-man, one-vote electoral system is in place.

He said the existing system was to blame for the four coups and army mutiny that have devastated Fiji’s fragile economy since 1987 and divided the South Pacific nation, which has a population of 837,270, according to a 2007 census.

Census figures showed that 25,000 Indians left the troubled country from 1996 to 2007 while the number of indigenous Fijians rose by more than 82,000.

The Court of Appeal granted Solicitor-General Christopher Pryde leave to appeal its judgement while refusing his application to grant a stay on its decision, Fijilive reported.

Meanwhile, four political parties were excluded from a dialogue forum of political leaders that Bainimarama called Thursday to discuss a solution to Fiji’s political and constitutional crisis.

Qarase said the four parties represented the majority of Fiji’s voters and could not be left out of the discussions.

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