12 Mar 2008

Fiji interim government lawyers claim Qarase insisted on military intervention

8:48 pm on 12 March 2008

The defence in the Fiji High Court case challenging the legality of the 2006 Coup have claimed that the ousted Prime Minister insisted on military intervention by Australia and New Zealand.

However Laisenia Qarase has taken the witness stand after the lawyers acting for the interim government had earlier argued that there was no case to answer.

Our correspondent, Matelita Ragogo, says the interim government's lawyer, Gerard Mc Coy, repeatedly asked the ousted prime minister whether he had called for outside military help to combat the Fiji armed forces.

She says the defence produced media reports where Mr Qarase confirmed making "enquiries" with Australia and New Zealand.

Commodore Frank Bainimarama said Mr Qarase's request for military intervention was one of the justifications for his move to overthrow the government in 2006.

However ousted leader denied making any such request.

"He just basically stood his ground, saying 'No, I never asked for military intervention. To make enquiries is different from to invite New Zealand or Australia to come in and introduce their military personnel on the ground'."

Another issue brought up by QC McCoy was a letter written by the deposed leader on the 8th January 2007, three days after the new interim government was sworn-in.

In the letter, QC McCoy said Mr Qarase signed off as former prime minister of Fiji, requesting that he be paid a pension, an entitlement of some one that had formerly served as prime minister.

He was asked if his letter was an acknowledgement of him giving up his position.

Mr Qarase said he is the constitutionally elected prime minister of Fiji and remains that since he was appointed on 18th May 2006.