Dismiss the Attorney General, says Justice William Marshall

AG under fire: Serious allegations about interference
 in the judicial process

Fiji Labour Party is shocked by revelations about the judiciary made by a former judge of the Fiji Court of Appeal Justice William Marshall QC,SC in a petition to the Prime Minister.

Justice Marshall made serious allegations on the Attorney General’s conduct in relation to abuse of power and interference with the judiciary and individual cases before the Courts.

He speaks of a prevailing “climate of fear” in the judiciary and alleges it has been seriously compromised. Justice Marshall claims interference with trial evidence and Court judgments which has rendered the judiciary subservient to the executive arm of the regime.

The allegations are contained in a voluminous petition, backed by supporting documents, to Prime Minister Commodore Bainimarama and the Military Council. It provides case profiles of what Justice Marshall claims were fabrication of evidence, false allegations and intimidation of judges and other officials during his two year tenure here.

He was President of the Fiji Court of Appeal for two years until June 2012, when he left following non-renewal of his contract. His petition to Commodore Bainimarama was sent late in June 2012.

In his petition, Justice Marshall calls on the Prime Minister to “forthwith dismiss the Attorney General and his agents or beneficiaries of cultural nepotism practised by him”.

He even goes as far as to suggest that the Chief Justice retire, the (then) Chief Registrar be dismissed and the appointments of all Sri Lankan judges in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court be terminated.

Justices Marshall alleges:

…progressive inroads into the independence of the judiciary which process has culminated since mid-April 2012 in a judiciary which at all levels now does what it perceives is required of it by the Executive.

At all levels, judges having heard the evidence, having researched and found the applicable law, and having listened to the submissions of the parties now ask themselves: ‘Now what would the Attorney General like my decision and judgment in this case to be?’ and make their judgment and orders in line with their answer.

Such allegations of interference in the judiciary by the Attorney General are not new. They have been made by sacked Sri Lankan judges, magistrates and lawyers after their departure from Fiji.

Last year, a report by the Law Society of England Charity Chair, Nigel Dodds who had visited Fiji in November 2011, spoke of the compromised state of the Fiji judiciary and the lack of transparency in the legal system.

The Marshall petition is now in the public domain. The charges it makes are damning and strike at the very foundation of our judicial and legal systems. Coming from a top ranking judge, there is little doubt that it has tarnished the reputation of the judiciary.

By no means are we saying or suggesting that the charges and allegations are true but that can only be established by an independent investigation. And this must be done to restore public confidence in our legal and judicial systems.

Fiji Labour Party calls on the President to commission an independent judicial inquiry into the claims made by Justice Marshall.

The Attorney General must step down from office to allow a free hand into the inquiry.

Until this happens and the air is cleared, people here and abroad will continue to speculate about the state of our judiciary.