7 Mar 2008

Fiji court told to consider public interest as interim government claims executive privilege

4:23 pm on 7 March 2008

Arguments during the challenge to the legality of the military overthrow of the Fiji government of Laisenia Qarase are focussing on whether an affidavit detailing critical meetings should be presented in the High Court.

It is the third day of preliminary argument ahead of a hearing proper now expected to start on Wednesday.

The critical issue is an affidavit from President Iloilo's secretary about discussions between the President, Mr Qarase and the coup leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama prior to, and just after, the military coup in 2006.

The interim Government is claiming that under executive privilege it is not obliged to produce the documents.

But our correspondent Matelita Ragogo reports that Mr Qarase got support in court from the chair of the Fiji Human Rights Commission, Dr Shaista Shameem.

"She told the court that executive privilege, on one hand it ensures that discussions and meetings at the upper echelons of government are kept confidential, but on the other hand the court should also consider that it could be of public interest."