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Justice delayed is justice denied, again and again” (11 November 2017)

11/11/2017

Justice delayed is justice denied, again and again (19/11/2017)

In Aiyaz Khaiyum’s system of law and justice in Fiji, judicial cases of a relatively trivial nature keep getting postponed month after month, year after year, with no thought being given  to the trauma that defendants  are forced to endure.

One such case was initiated around August 2016 by DPP Christopher Pryde against Letter Writer Josaia Waqabaca, Nai Lalakai editor (Anare Ravula), Fiji Times Editor in Chief (Fred Wesley), Fiji Times publisher and General Manager Hank Arts, and the Fiji Times Limited.

Originally, the charge was that of “inciting communal antagonism” against the Muslim community, because a Letter to the Editor in the Fijian language had been published on April 27 of 2016 by the Fijian language newspaper Nai Lalakai questioning the allegedly large numbers of Muslims being appointed to high positions.

That case has been allowed to drag on for more than a year and half, with defendants stopped from travelling abroad even on excellent surety provided by responsible citizens.

The latest was a further postponement of the case with the prosecution amending information, to which not only the defence objected, but Justice Rajasinghe apparently expressing his disappointment that the prosecution amended the translation of the charge against the first accused without the leave of the court.

Instead of throwing this pathetic prosecution case out, Justice Rajasinghe gave defence until 16 November 2017 to file submissions on the objection and stated that he would hear the application of objection on November 27.

Only God knows when the final judgment would be made and He is not saying and might even say that he is rather busy, having to look after ten government ministries, and any way, He does not interfere with Fiji’s judiciary. Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

But how utterly pathetic that this relatively trivial case, certainly against English-speaking Editor in Chief (Wesley) and Publisher (Hank Arts), has been allowed to drag on for more than a year and half. Is it a coincidence, among many other “coincidences” in Fiji today?

Defending lawyers do not mind of course, since every appearance earns them a fat fee which doctors, nurses or engineers, genuine productive people of our society, can never expect to receive.

But why does the judiciary presided over by Justice Anthony Gates tolerate this state of affairs, totally ignoring the dictum that “justice delayed is justice denied”? Recollect that every year, generation after generation of penguins in black gowns and white wigs, are proudly graduated from our “Law Schools”, after listening to benign advice from the Chief Justice Anthony Gates to adhere to their oaths of office.

Why is it that the judges who are contributing to this legal farce in Fiji, a remote South Pacific country, mostly Sri Lankan, as are a number of persons appointed by Khaiyum to powerful government board positions?

Why does the Fiji Law Society not object, even though any of their leading lights will expound ad nauseam that “justice delayed is justice denied”? Should this organization be now rebranded Fiji Lamuso#a Society?

Why does the usually belligerent Chairman of Human Rights in Fiji (Mr. Ashwin Raj), not utter a tweet of protest at the inhumane treatment of the defendants, denied legitimate human rights such as being able to travel abroad for family reasons, and made to suffer mentally while the charges not only hang over their heads, but keep changing?

Why are the law experts at USP, FNU and UniFiji keeping deathly quiet?

Why are the journalism academics at USP totally quiet?

Why are civil society organizations usually concerned about human rights totally quiet?

Why is the intelligent public not raising a single word of protest at this judicial farce that has been carrying on for more than a year, against the only remaining independent news media in Fiji?

Note the intimidation of the media

It would be too easy to conclude that the prosecuting arm presided over by Christopher Pryde is simply incompetent.

But many other far more complex cases have been speedily prosecuted and judgments given.

So why not in this case against The Fiji Times?

Readers might note that in recent years there has been a massive increase in “pro-government” news that is being carried by even this once robust newspaper.

Who will deny that having such charges with potentially heavy penalties, sitting over the Fiji Times senior personnel MUST ensure that this independent newspaper feel intimidation into reducing its role as a “watchdog on government” and become a “lapdog of government” like the other print media owned by CJ Patel?

Again and again, I am reminded of the Joni Mitchell refrain “you don’t know what you have got till it is gone”.

 

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