“Just because they are foreigners, I think it is a bit unfair to give them their publicity”
The dismissed Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions, Elizabeth Rice, will be claiming in her forthcoming legal action against the state that she was told by her boss, the illegal Acting DPP, John Rabuku, that she was being sacked because she was “white”. The circumstances are detailed in our posting “The Crime of being White” four days ago on January 24.
Ms Rice will also be submitting evidence that she was told by John Rabuku in writing that her performance was “commendable”, which suggests that lack of performance wasn’t a factor in his decision to remove her. He wanted her gone so that he could replace the British born lawyer – who was about to prosecute Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum – with an iTaukei. And in the meantime, Rabuku has taken over the prosecution of Khaiyum himself.
Now the Attorney General, Siromi Turaga, has swung in behind his supposedly independent hand- picked appointment to defend what he did. He says nothing about the use of the term “white” but expresses the view that he sees “no reason why we should employ these expatriate lawyers “. The reason, AG, is what you are about to find out – that a crack prosecutor has been replaced in arguably the trial of the decade by a local in the form of John Rabuku who has had little courtroom experience in high profile cases and will be coming up against arguably Fiji’s best lawyer, Devanesh Sharma, who is defending Turaga’s ousted predecessor. If that prosecution fails, the blame will clearly rest with Rabuku and you.
But what is truly astonishing is that Siromi Turaga not only defends the indefensible but goes on to defame Elizabeth Rice – who has an unblemished record – by saying that there were good reasons for John Rabuku to sack her. “If people have been found to have performance below what is expected of them, especially as lawyers, there will be consequences. They will be terminated or asked to resign because it is a high profile office where a lot of public expenditure is involved”, he said.
When Elizabeth Rice is told in writing that her performance has been “commendable”, that hardly constitutes “performance below what is expected “. The AG’s line of argument just isn’t going to fly either in the court case Rice is mounting for unlawful dismissal or in the court of public opinion. And it is a disgrace that he would attempt to impugn Elizabeth Rice’s stellar reputation by publicly stating that her performance wasn’t up to scratch. Given the circumstances, it is clearly defamatory and the AG is now almost certainly going to find himself alongside Rabuku in being cited formally in this case.
As Grubsheet has reported before, Siromi Turaga is a dangerous extremist with no regard whatsoever for the law. He defied the Constitution – the supreme law – by appointing John Rabuku as Acting DPP in the first place. The Constitution specifically forbids it because Rabuku has been found guilty of misconduct by the Independent Legal Services Commission. His appointment is illegal and the Fiji Law Society has made representations to the government that it be reversed.
The AG also continues to defy the Constitution by refusing – alongside his hand-picked Acting Chief Justice, Salesi Temo – to convene a judicial tribunal to hear the allegation of misbehaviour against the suspended DPP, Christopher Pryde, for having been photographed in casual conversation with Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum at a Japanese Embassy function. Christopher Pryde has so far been waiting nine months on full pay for Turaga and Temo to fulfil their constitutional obligation to determine the case against him. That, in itself, is a scandal.
Siromi Turaga says he sees “no reason why we should employ these expatriate lawyers”. As with Elizabeth Rice, there has been no suggestion of performance issues relating to Christopher Pryde, who was appointed DPP in 2011 and was given another seven year term in 2019. When he was suspended last April, Pryde was four years into that term and at no time had there been any question about his competence.
Why has Siromi Turaga been dragging his feet in fulfilling the constitutional requirement to convene a panel of at least three judges to hear the allegation of “misbehaviour” against Christopher Pryde? How did it constitute “misbehaviour” for the DPP to be in a roomful of people at a public function and have a casual conversation with Siromi Turaga’s predecessor? That is what these three judges will eventually have to determine, assuming the supreme law is going to be upheld.
Given what we now know about the reasons for Elizabeth Rice’s dismissal – that she was “white” – it is perfectly reasonable to assume that this is also the reason Christopher Pryde was suspended. It certainly explains why the Attorney General and the Acting Chief Justice are dragging their feet. Because on the evidence before us, it isn’t about performance at all. Like Elizabeth Rice, it is the about the colour of Christopher Pryde’s skin.
Overt racism is now the prevailing condition in the institutions of state and the civil service in Fiji. There are now just too many examples for it to be anything else. There are a range of reasons why the Coalition government is now a clear threat to the wellbeing of the nation and its people. But this racism, and especially on the part of those who hold the principal offices of state, is the most egregious.
Sitiveni Rabuka came to power promising that he had learnt the lessons of 1987, made repeated apologies to the nation’s minorities to gain their support and has betrayed them. The Coalition is a racist government enabling racist behaviour. And in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society where racial harmony is the most important consideration of all, it has forfeited its right to govern.