On Saturday (May 23) the military appointed registrar of the Fiji High Court, Ana Rokomokoti, closed down the core activity of the country’s law society.
From now on the law society will have no regulatory function and the registrar of the High Court will issue practising certificates.
According to the Legal Practitioners Decree, promulgated on Friday, May 22, all lawyers in Fiji will have to reapply for their practising certificates.
All PCs will expire at the end of June and the latest date for reapplication is June 15.
Members heard of the latest troubling development this afternoon.
Here is an email sent to members from the Vice President of the Fiji Law Society, Laurel Vaurasi:
We regret to inform you the following:
1. As of two hours ago, six High Court Administration Staff, led by the Regime’s Chief Registrar [Major] Ana Rokomokoti, forcely removed the keys to the Fiji Law Society secretariat, from the custody of Secretariat Staff Ms. Afrana Nisha, and attended the Secretariat. Afrana Nisha was then taken to the Secretariat where she was told to hand over all complaint files.
2. According to the Chief Registrar, the complaint files were being removed pursuant to a new Decree issued as of yesterday which provided her with all the powers pursuant to the Legal Practitioners Act. When we asked to sight the Decree, we were informed that the Decree could be obtained from the Government Printery. The Chief Registrar also notified us that she will be issuing the Practising Certificates and that the Fiji Law Society will be but a voluntary body henceforth.
3. The President requested that they wait at least until Monday so that proper records could be made available to them, however, his request went unheeded as the files were forcefully removed.
4. This latest development is of grave concern to the President and the Council, given its dire implications, as this effectively terminates the core functions of the Fiji Law Society and all its members’ years of hard work since 1956.
Please forward your views ASAP.
Ms Laurel Vaurasi
Vice President, FLS
The destruction of the FLS comes four days after the society received advice from London silk James Dingemans that the government’s Administration of Justice Decree was unconstitutional and it would be breach of the the law society’s code of ethics if members accepted judicial appointments.
The Fiji Times reports today (Monday, May 25) that an “independent” Legal Services Commission is being established to deal with complaints about lawyers and to review their costs.
Ominously the paper says:
“The commission is empowered to hear complaints against lawyers and mete out disciplinary measures it deems fit.”
It is predicted that the military dictatorship will be first in line with complains about those lawyers it regards as uncooperative and having them “dealt with” by its hand-picked goons on the LSC.