20 Nov 2007

Suspended Fiji chief justice to face tribunal next week

4:37 pm on 20 November 2007

Three eminent legal professionals from Australia, Hong Kong and Malaysia have been appointed to a tribunal which will hear charges against Fiji's suspended chief justice, Daniel Fatiaki.

President Iloilo has appointed Justice Robert James Ellicott, a former solicitor general and attorney general of Australia and a former judge of the Federal Court of Australia, to chair the tribunal.

Justice Raymond Sears, a judge of the High Court of Hong Kong, and Tan Sri Datuk Dr Lal Chand Vohra, a former judge of the High Court of Malaysia, will be the other members of the tribunal.

The tribunal will begin its preliminary hearing in open court in Suva on Monday.

Mr Fatiaki has been served with the charges against him.

They are that Mr Fatiaki failed to uphold the dignity and high standing of the office of a High Court judge, failed to ensure that his conduct was above reproach in the eyes of a reasonably informed observer, and failed to conduct himself in a manner that would reaffirm the public's faith in the integrity of the judiciary.

Other charges against Mr Fatiaki concern wilful falsification of his income tax returns, participation in discussions during the May 2000 coup to prepare advice to the then president to prorogue parliament, appoint a caretaker prime minister, dismiss parliament and then accept the resignation of the caretaker prime minister.

The last charge deals with Justice Fatiaki together with the then chief justice, Sir Timoci Tuivaga, and Justice Michael Scott allegedly assisting in the drafting of decrees during the Speight coup.

These decrees purported to abolish the Supreme Court, extend the retirement ages of judges and exclude certain judges including themselves from their obligation to uphold the judicial oath thereby aiding and abetting in the abrogation of the constitution.

The interim attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khayum, has called on the media not to use the proceedings of the tribunal for a trial by media.

He has also urged politicians and NGOs not to use the proceedings as a means to serve their personal and political gain.