NZ lawyers should not work for Fiji regime, Law Society says

The New Zealand Law Society has reiterated its view that Fiji's military regime is unlawful and lawyers from this country should not accept appointments with it.

Speaking after today's announcement that New Zealand lawyer Christopher Pryde had been reappointed Solicitor-General of Fiji, society president John Marshall said that his organisation took its lead from the Fiji Law Society, which it had agreed to support.

"The Fiji Law Society's position is that they would prefer that New Zealanders do not take up appointments at this stage.

"It puts more pressure on the interim, unlawful regime if they cannot find people who are prepared to fulfil these roles."

Mr Pryde has rejected the view of New Zealand Law Society, saying that it was important for Fiji that there was minimum disruption to government services and that people helped the country to restore the rule of law.

Mr Marshall told NZPA he could see both sides of the argument surrounding the appointment of foreign lawyers to the Fiji judiciary.

"It is important to have good people who are prepared to take appointments - provided it is on the basis that they will do their very best to uphold the rule of law in Fiji and be prepared to give independent advice and take an independent position on issues."

However, the society's official line remained that New Zealand lawyers should not get involved with the current regime.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully was not available this morning to comment on Mr Pryde's reappointment.

Eight magistrates and a chief magistrate were sworn in yesterday by President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, who sacked the previous judiciary on April 10, a day after it ruled Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama's interim government illegal.

No chief justice has so far been named and no appointments to Fiji's High Court or Supreme Court have made.

Former Fiji Court of Appeal judge Francis Douglas said he believed Fiji's government may be trying to get new judges from Hong Kong and Malaysia.

Mr Douglas said it would be very hard to convince retired New Zealand and Australian judges to take up the positions.

"Knowing what I know about some of them, they would be reluctant to take appointments in the conditions that now exist," he told Radio New Zealand.

- NZPA

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