Parliament approves the removal of the Anti Corruption Divisions from the High Court and Magistrates Court

Parliament approves the removal of the Anti Corruption Divisions from the High Court and Magistrates Court

By Rashika Kumar , Navitalai Naivalurua
Thursday 14/09/2023
[Photo: Nations Online Project]

Parliament has approved the deletion of the provision for the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Division of the High Court and also amends the Magistrates Court Act by deleting the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Division of the Magistrates Court.

There were objections to the tabling of the High Court (Amendment) Bill 2023 by the opposition, and it went into voting.

29 MPs voted for it, 24 voted against it and 2 did not vote.

Attorney General, Siromi Turaga says there is no data to justify a special anti-corruption court.

He also says the government has localised the magistracy because they believe that they cannot allow to pay exorbitant salaries to people who are not residents when we have an over supply of experienced lawyers.

The Attorney General says it is unfair when the terms and conditions of local judges and magistrates are not same as those who are from overseas.

Turaga says he was one of those affected.

Turaga also says the issue of delay in our courts is chronic and based on resources.

He says a new court will be opened in Ba this year and there will be a High Court sitting in Ba for the first time which will address the issue of delay.

Turaga says the Chief Justice is putting in processes to improve disposition of matters and some of them have been directed to finish those pending matters.

The Attorney General says this is the first time ever for a Chief Justice who is in an acting capacity has personally audited the files of all judicial officers and is fully aware how many pending matters a judge has, and the length of the matters.

Turaga says there can only be confidence in the judicial system if there is rule of law and people see their matters are being concluded.

While opposing the bill, Leader of Opposition Inia Seruiratu says he hopes it is not because it was brought during the FijiFirst days that it is being dismantled.

He says they are here for the future of Fiji and an effective court system is needed to support investment in the country.

He has assured the Minister for Lands that this not something that was cooked up by the FijiFirst government in 2021.

He says the consultation was done in 2007 before the establishment of FICAC which talks about the effectiveness of Fiji's legal system.

Seruiratu says the consultation that is more reliable than the last Economic Summit that only had one or two or sometimes no attendance where as this had more than a thousand attendance through out Fiji.

He adds FICAC supports the creation of corruption division of the High Court.

FijiFirst MP Josaia Niudamu says it's not only the first time a specialised court is made in Fiji.

He believes that the removal of the Anti-Corruption Division will have more workload for the judges and magistrates.

Opposition MP Mosese Bulitavu says 17 jurisdictions around the world have special anti-corruption courts.

Bulitavu adds the former Attorney General had stated from what they have seen after its implementation, there is no problem.

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