A veteran lawyer who is one of the biggest names in the legal profession and has been a strong supporter of the Coalition since before the last election startled Grubsheet this week with a devastating critique of the Rabuka government, describing it as “disorganised and hopeless”.
He said the Coalition was chronically unable to implement anything. “You go to them with a good idea and they say ‘good idea’ but that’s it. There is absolutely no follow-through and whatever idea you put forward dies in the minister’s office”, he said.
This PAP supporter was particularly scathing about the Coalition’s failure to arrest the activities of indigenous extremists. “You are absolutely right to keep attacking them for their racism. It is destroying confidence in Fiji and it will eventually destroy this government”, he said.
There is realistically little or nothing that can be done about the government’s implementation failings. It seems to be a chronic problem in Fiji shared with its FijiFirst predecessor. But the Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, and those around him can do a great deal immediately to arrest the government’s current slide in public opinion and restore a degree of confidence in their ability to govern.
The PM has already shown resolve by terminating the ministerial appointment of Aseri Radrodro – a domestic violence abuser, a liar and a cheat. He must also put his personal feelings aside and exact the same punishment on Lynda Tabuya for her own deception and lack of judgment. The antics of both of them have been sapping confidence in the government simply because they have made a mockery of traditional standards of ministerial conduct.
Whatever the current PAP inquiry decides to do about Lynda Tabuya, she has once again demonstrated a complete lack of judgment by presiding over a raffle to raise funds for the Kadavu rugby club in which all but one of the prizes is hard liquor. She is meant to be the Minister for Social Protection and social protection doesn’t include promoting the use of alcohol. So she has comprehensively lost the plot as well as having lost her moral compass.
Yet even more important than sending Lynda Tabuya to join her lover on the back bench is the absolute imperative to remove Siromi Turaga as Attorney General and stop the current rot in the criminal justice system, which is causing mounting alarm in the legal profession.
Last October, Sitiveni Rabuka announced a cabinet reshuffle in which he removed Siromi Turaga as AG. That reshuffle was aborted by a SODELPA revolt over the simultaneous removal of Aseri Radrodro as education minister. But now that the Prime Minister has finally asserted his authority and Radrodro is gone, he must now proceed with his original plan to remove the AG.
Siromi Turaga is unfit to be the chief law officer of the state. As the aforementioned senior lawyer puts it: “The guy is mad and dangerous” – an ethnic and religious extremist who is not only racist but is demolishing the foundations of the state with his current assault on the rule of law.
Turaga is also a bald faced liar. In an astonishing article in the chronically-biased Fiji Times entitled “Turaga clears the air” the AG claimed the offices of state were “independent” when hard evidence exists that they are not. The Fiji Times is aware of this evidence but is so journalistically corrupt that it depicts unsubstantiated claims as fact. “Turaga clears the air”, my foot. It is as fetid as it ever was.
Let’s genuinely “clear the air” and set the record straight. A whole roomful of people in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and more listening in other parts of the country heard the late Acting DPP, David Toganivalu, say that he had specific instructions from both Siromi Turaga and the Acting Chief Justice, Salesi Temo, to fast-track the prosecutions of those associated with the former government. In private conversations at the same time, David Toganivalu complained to others that his independence as DPP was continually being undermined by instructions from Siromi Turaga and the Acting Chief Justice. So the AG’s comments to the Fiji Times are a lie.
But that isn’t all. There is now a chasm between the statements made by the Prime Minister at the time of Aseri Radrodro’s sacking about the importance of adhering to the Constitution and what Siromi Turaga and Salesi Temo are actually doing with their illegal appointments of John Rabuku as Acting DPP and the Supreme Court judge, Alipate Qetaki. They are illegal because the Constitution specifically forbids anyone who has been found guilty of professional misconduct by the Independent Legal Services Commissioner from holding the offices of DPP or a judge. And both Rabuku and Qetaki were found guilty by the ILSC.
How can the Prime Minister credibly profess on the one hand the absolute need to uphold the Constitution and on the other countenance unconstitutional appointments by his Attorney General and the Acting Chief Justice? Short answer. He can’t. Sitiveni Rabuka’s position is untenable and sheer logic dictates that he must correct this glaring inconsistency to have any hope of retaining his own credibility and authority with the Fijian people.
Siromi Turaga and Salesi Temo are reported to be incensed by a request by the Fiji Law Society that the Prime Minister begin the process of removing them and reverse the unconstitutional appointments of John Rabuku and Alipate Qetaki. The Acting Chief Justice is said to have been particularly enraged that the nation’s lawyers in private practice are saying that his conduct means that he can never be confirmed in the substantive position left vacant by the death of Kamal Kumar. But they are 100 per cent correct and Temo is 100 per cent wrong. Because no-one who has defied the supreme law can possibly be in charge of presiding over the administration of the judicial system in Fiji.
We cannot have a situation in which the country’s elected leader, Sitiveni Rabuka, preaches compliance with the supreme law and the Attorney General and Acting Chief Justice defy it. So they must go and go quickly if there is to be any confidence at all on the part of the Fijian people that the Prime Minister is fit to rule and the Coalition deserves the nation’s support.
The Prime Minister must use the delayed cabinet reshuffle to remove Siromi Turaga – as he planned to do four months ago – and Salesi Temo should be charged with misbehaviour for disobeying the Constitution and replaced as Acting CJ.
Both are in violation of the supreme law not only in relation to their illegal appointments but also because of their failure to convene judicial tribunals to hear the charges against the suspended Police Commissioner, Sitiveni Qiliho, and the suspended DPP, Christopher Pryde. And they must go as soon as possible to begin the process of rebuilding confidence in the rule of law.
WHAT THE PRIME MINISTER SAID WHEN HE SACKED ASERI RADRODRO (See our “When the Shoe Fits Only When It Suits”. Jan 21)
QUOTE: “The Constitution guides my actions and I remain committed to upholding its principles”.
QUOTE: “Section 95 of the Constitution is very clear on the powers of the Prime Minister to appoint and dismiss Cabinet Ministers. It is the sole prerogative of the Prime Minister”.
QUOTE: As we move forward, I urge all parties involved to conduct themselves with respect for due process and the rule of law”.
Time to be consistent, Prime Minister.