17 Jan 2007

Fiji High Court judge sworn in as acting chief justice

9:48 am on 17 January 2007

Suva High Court judge, Anthony Gates, has been sworn in as Fiji's acting chief justice.

Justice Gates replaces the chief justice, Daniel Fatiaki, who was sent on leave by the military pending an investigation into the judiciary.

Justice Gates was sworn in by President Iloilo in the presence of the interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, and the interim attorney general and minister for justice, Aiyaz Sayed-Khayum.

The chief magistrate, Naomi Matanitobua, was also sent on leave at the same time as Justice Fatiaki pending a full inquiry into the judiciary.

The action is part of the military's clean-up campaign and follows allegations of corruption and irregularities in the judicial system.

The military has not given any details yet of its inquiry into the judiciary or what will happen to Justice Fatiaki who is currently on leave with full pay.

In the aftermath of the May 2000 coup, the then chief justice Sir Timoci Tuivaga, and his successor, Daniel Fatiaki, were criticized for their alleged involvement in helping to draft decrees to abrogate the 1997 Constitution.

When the abrogation was challenged in the High Court, Justice Gates had ruled that the attempted abrogation was unlawful and the 1997 Constitution was still intact.

Since then the Fiji judiciary has been deeply split with another judge, Justice Nazhat Shameem, challenging Justice Fatiaki's decision to hear an appeal against one of her coup rulings when she said he was not a neutral party in the case.