Attempt to get new Fiji parties law struck down by courts | Pacific Beat

Attempt to get new Fiji parties law struck down by courts

Attempt to get new Fiji parties law struck down by courts

Updated 18 January 2013, 16:47 AEDT

Fiji's political parties have joined forces to fight a new decree they say threatens their existence.

The new regulations brought in by the coup installed military government place severe restrictions on party funding and membership, and requires parties have five thousand members - a target all parties say is unrealistic.

Lawyer Rajendra Chaudhry, son of Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry, says he's representing all Fiji's political parties in an attempt to get the courts to strike the new law down.

Radio Australia has asked the Fiji government for a response, but it has yet to reply.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Fiji Labour Party member and lawyer Rajendra Chaudhry.

RAJENDRA CHAUDHRY: Well surprisingly with this decree, there's no caveat that this decree or any of its provision is not challengeable in court, so that is something that we intend to pursue. And I have had instructions from the Fiji Labour Party to pursue this and to engage the services of the Senior Counsel to argue this matter on behalf of the Labour Party, the SDL, the National Federation Party and the United People's Party, and in effect to the Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions. So that is for the moment what I am doing.

HILL: On what grounds can you challenge this. My understanding is that it's a coup-installed military government and they can simply decree things and those decrees automatically become law?

RAJENDRA CHAUDHRY: Well look, it's a huge invasion on the rights of citizens. The number of signatures and it's what, 5,000 is totally unreasonable. There's a lot of logistical issues that will present itself for political parties in the process and it gives a lot of power to the registrar which previously was never the case. Parties were given a lot of free reign to organise themselves and to register voters or to assist with the registration of voters with the supervise of elections and everything was fine. There was no issues, there were no issues of corruption in the party, or parties not pursuing in the interests of its members. So this legislation was totally unnecessary.

HILL: Do you think that you have a good chance of getting this struck down?

RAJENDRA CHAUDHRY: Look, it offends every known principle of fair elections and registration of voters and the atmosphere where parties, political parties should be allowed to operate and it also is a huge encroachment on privacy. It is really an oppressive piece of legislation if I could call it that.

HILL: So what were your grounds for arguing this in court be, that it infringes on other individual democratic rights?

RAJENDRA CHAUDHRY: Yes, that as well as it violates the International Convention that Fiji has ratified or been party to and which gives political parties freedom, it gives them a certain amount of space to operate, to conduct its operations and there also there are international conventions that demand that the electoral process be transparent, be independent and be separate totally from the administration. So these are some of the grounds that we would be looking at, of course, upon advice from Senior Counsel. There would be other grounds that could be pursued also.

HILL: Do you have confidence in the legal system in Fiji to bring out a straightforward judicial result?

RAJENDRA CHAUDHRY: Look, I'm an eternal optimist. I think the decree is so repugnant that it will surely not be able to withstand a court challenge. I anticipate that the courts will strike it down.

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