[Pacific_media_watch] 6269 FIJI: NZ Law Society protests over regime's action

Title – 6269 FIJI: NZ Law Society protests over regime's action
Date – 25 May 2009
Byline – Media release
Origin – Pacific Media Watch
Source – Fiji Law Society/Scoop, 25/05/09
Copyright – FLC/S
Status – Unabridged
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AUCKLAND (Scoop/Pacific Media Watch): The Fiji regime's decision to
take over issuing practising certificates for lawyers in Fiji is "very
disturbing", the president of the New Zealand Law Society, John
Marshall, QC, said today (May 25).

By a decree dated Friday 22 May, the Fiji government has ruled that the
Chief Registrar of the Court, a government employee, will take over
issuing practising certificates from the Fiji Law Society. The decree
says that all existing certificates will expire by the end of June and
that lawyers will have to seek renewal from the Registrar before then.

John Marshall said the move was a very serious attack on the
independence of the legal profession in Fiji and was of considerable

"An independent legal profession is a vital element of the rule of law.
The legal profession represents individuals in claims against the State
and defends them in criminal cases brought by the State. Lawyers must
be independent of State interference to be able to represent clients
freely and fearlessly.

"In New Zealand, the Law Society issues practising certificates to
lawyers. The Fiji Law Society has done the same for the last 12 years.
We are very concerned to learn that the Fiji Government, through the
Chief Registrar, will now decide who should hold a practising

"We will be watching the situation very closely and we will be
extremely concerned if there is any suggestion that lawyers who oppose
the regime, or who act for clients who bring cases against it, are
being refused practising certificates," he said.

"The New Zealand Law Society is also very concerned about the process
by which these and other wide ranging changes to the regulation of
Fiji's legal profession have been made. There was no consultation,
simply the issuing of the decree. Then, at the weekend representatives
of the regime arrived at the Fiji Law Society offices to remove files
relating to complaints, which, under the decree, will now also be
handled by the Registrar," John Marshall said.

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