McCully: Fiji takes serious step back

New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister has condemned the Fiji President's decision to abolish the constitution and sack Appeal Court judges who ruled the military-appointed interim Government illegal.

Minister Murray McCully called the move by President Ratu Josefa Iloilo to disband the Court of Appeal after their unfavourable decision "a serious step backwards", although he did not commit New Zealand to doing anything about it.

"The events of the past few days will merely compound the problems faced by ordinary Fijians," Mr McCully said.

"The decision of the Court of Appeal declaring the interim Government unlawful provided a way out for [the country's military leader] Commodore Bainimarama and his colleagues. It is a great pity that they did not take the opportunity they were afforded."

Mr McCully said he had little doubt the President's decision was prompted by Commodore Bainimarama.

Earlier yesterday, President Iloilo announced in a radio address he had abolished the constitution, assumed all governing power and revoked all judicial appointments.

"I hereby confirm I have abrogated the 1997 constitution and appointed myself as head of state in the new order," Mr Iloilo said.

The move came one day after the country's second-highest court ruled that Commodore Bainimarama's Government was illegal, effectively creating a power vacuum.

Labour Party leader Phil Goff said Fiji had to "break out of its coup culture" and democratically form consensus among its communities and respect the rights of its citizens.

"New Zealand can play a constructive role by working with Fiji and through the Fijian community in New Zealand to help ensure that happens," Mr Goff said.

New Zealand imposed targeted sanctions against Fiji after the 2006 coup.

- NZPA

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