Wednesday, 23 April 2008 4:57 AM

Fiji's New Elections Boss Withdraws

Fiji's newly-appointed Elections Supervisor has withdrawn from the post amid controversy just days after the announcement of his appointment.

Reports from Fiji media state that Dr. Maurice Coughlan, the New Zealand-based lawyer that was appointed to oversee Fiji's promised upcoming elections, has withdrawn from the post following controversy based on his previous disbarment in New Zealand.

According to Radio New Zealand International, Dr. Coughlan had 'been disbarred in New Zealand 16 years ago - information the Fiji Public Service Commission has said it was not made aware of'.
The report also added that 'the Chair of the Commission, Rishi Ram, says they had received an explanation from Dr. Coughlan but on Tuesday decided to ask that he withdraw. However the Commission had not got around to making that request when Dr. Coughlan pulled out'.

According to the Fiji Times Online, Fiji's former Supervisor of Elections, Semesa Karavaki, who was removed from the post following the 2007 military coup, 'said it was the commission's responsibility to check out Dr. Coughlan's background'.

He added that, "The commission should have checked with the NZ Law Society because he should not only be a lawyer but a reputable lawyer," said Mr. Karavaki.

Fiji has been searching for a new Supervisor of Elections and Dr. Coughlan's appointment was a positive step towards democracy. According to Fiji Times Online, Mr. Ram says that they will now be looking at the other candidates.

Fiji's interim Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, has continued to reaffirm that the country will hold national elections next year.

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