Fiji to appoint seven new magistrates following several resignations

Fiji to appoint seven new magistrates following several resignations

Fiji to appoint seven new magistrates following several resignations

Posted 20 April 2011, 13:35 AEST

Fiji's Law Society has welcomed the coup-installed interim government's plan to appoint seven new magistrates.

The interim Attorney-General announced the intention, following the resignation of three Sri Lankan magistrates earlier this week.

Law Society president, Dorsami Naidu, says the mass resignations are unfortunate.

"The unfortunate thing is when three magistrates resign, the courts will be without a magistrate for some time," he said.

"I mean the magistracy been undermanned anyway."

According to Fiji's Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Acting Chief Magistrate Mr Pamila Ratnayake and two Presiding Magistrates, Ms Kaweendra Nanayakkara and Mr Lakmal Wickramasooriya resigned for personal reasons.

The resignations bring the number of magistrates remaining in Fiji to 15, out of a possible 26.

Retention problems

Mr Naidu says Fiji has been having problems recruiting and retaining judicial officers.

"The travel bans we have placed on movement of magistrates or people who take up office under this regime, I think that is one draw back."

He says for local magistrates, there are concerns over security of tenure.

"Unfortunately some people who are appointed as magistrates for some reason have their appointments terminated," he said.

"We have never been told the reason."

Mr Naidu says he assumes judicial officers know the constraints of working in Fiji before they take up appointments.

"The majority of them aren't concerned with the politics. They just come here and want to do their job as judicial officers to the best of their ability."

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the seven new judges will be a mix of Fijians and foreigners.

"Five of these would-be Magistrates are Fijians, one Australian and one New Zealander," he said.