President acted within power says Court
Fiji’s Supreme Court has ruled that the President acted in the interest of peace, order, and good governance, following the takeover in December 2006.
Delivering their judgment in the case of ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase against the overthrow of his government, the panel of judges found that no other course of action was available and that such action as taken by the President was reasonably necessary.
Reading the ruling acting Chief Justice Anthony Gates stated rather than impairing the rights of citizens, they concluded that the President’s actions were designed to protect a wide variety of competing rights from displacement by avoiding conflagration.
The judges consisting of Gates, Justice Davendra Pathik and Jusice John Byrnes, also found that exceptional circumstances existed in the events after the take-over not provided for by the Constitution, and that the stability of the State was endangered.
They say the President’s decision, in short, was to exercise prerogative powers to rule directly until elections could be conducted, adding he decided to rule with the advice of a Prime Minister and Cabinet.
They say that decision, if it was to succeed, necessarily involved ratifying the acts already carried out by Commodore Bainimarama.
Such acts were the dismissal of the Prime Minister Qarase, the dismissal of his Ministers, the appointment of Dr Jona Senilagakali as Caretaker Prime Minister who in turn advised the dissolution of Parliament.
Thereafter the President appointed to advise him, a new Prime Minister and Ministers.
The judges say the details of how all this was to be achieved did not affect or deflect from the President’s clear intention to act to save the country from it’s strife or affect the legality of his acts within the scope of the ultimate reserve powers.
Meanwhile they say they do not find that the Presidents actions consolidated any revolution as the Constitution remained and remains the same, adding the government exists in the interim by way of direct Presidential rule with His Excellency being advised by a Prime Minister and Cabinet of Ministers.
The judges say there have been criticisms of the inclusion of Commodore Bainimarama as Prime Minister, adding they are not aware of special difficulties the President may have incurred in obtaining the services of competent and valiant citizens to advise him at this time.
They say it is clear form media reports many politicians have been reluctant to assist saying these persons might otherwise have advised the President on the wise way to achieve a smooth return to democratic rule through universally approved elections.
In dismissing Qarase’s application, the judges ruled that the decision of the President to ratify the dismissal of Qarase and his ministers, to appoint Dr Senilagakali as Caretaker PM, to advise the dissolution of parliament are valid and lawful acts in exercise of the prerogative powers of the Head of State to act for the public good in a crisis.