8 Jul 2002

Fiji's retiring chief justice defends his actions after the May 2000 coup

10:27 am on 8 July 2002

Fiji's retiring chief justice, Sir Timoci Tuivaga, has defended his controversial actions after the May 2000 coup which led to strong criticism and calls for his resignation.

Speaking during his farewell at the annual convention of the Fiji law Society, Sir Timoci said his decisions after the coup were guided by the principle that the welfare of the state and the safety of the people was the highest law.

Critics of Sir Timoci's actions in drafting military decrees purporting to abrogate the constitution and abolish the Supreme Court and his calls for the resignations of judges who questioned his decisions were present at the farewell.

Sir Timoci said helping the army was the best choice available at the time because he had to safeguard the lives of all Fiji citizens including those who were held hostage by the coup makers.

He said his actions which the international and local legal fraternity criticised as compromising the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, would no doubt be analysed and debated long into the future.

But Sir Timoci said he wanted to make it clear that he took full responsibility for them and would like to leave the judiciary on that understanding.

Sir Timoci will be retiring at the end of this month.