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Fiji Times Warns Against Dictatorship

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Fiji Times Warns Against Dictatorship

* See earlier reports online: http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/docs/news/nius3095shoot.html

Staff Reporters USP's Pacific Journalism Online

SUVA: Gagging orders against Fiji military suspects based on hearsay allegations were today condemned by the Fiji Times which warned army authorities against turning the country into a dictatorship.

In an editorial headed "No dictators, please", said: "The horrifying murders of unarmed soldiers by their so-called comrades and the bloody slaughter that followed have shocked the nation and the world.

"Trampling on the rights of individuals should have no place in the army's investigatory armoury."

Eight soldiers were killed in last Thursday's mutiny with allegations of brutality on both sides.

Already, the newspaper said, it was clear that people had been badly beaten on "the mere suspicion that they were in some way involved with the Nabua mutiny".

"The army cannot allow its soldiers to carry out summary justice, regardless of how painful the provocation.

"The people who carried out the beatings should be charged at court martials along with those who took part in the more serious crimes of mutiny and murder."

The Fiji Times said the military could not be judge and jury while investigating the events of November 2.

The newspaper was critical of the restriction orders placed on two senior officers, Lieutenant Colonel Filipo Tarakinikini and Colonel Ulaiasi Vatu, which prevent the two men leaving their homes without permission, and bar them from talking to the media.

Colonel Tarakinikini had already spoken out to the media and now says he will not resign from the military until he has cleared his name.

Colonel Vatu spoke to the media in defiance of the gag for the first time yesterday to "set the record straight while I can".

He denied any involvement in the mutiny.

"I am concerned about the muzzling tactic used by the military. I want to put a stop to it," Colonel Vatu said.

"It has to end otherwise we will end up being a police state."

Colonel Vatu told the Fiji Times he had never been informed of any allegations against him or the reason for the restriction order.

"It is surely a basic right for every citizen of this country to know what accusations are levelled against him or her when an arrest is made or restriction placed upon them," the Fiji Times said.

"It appears that these restriction orders have been put in place on the basis of hearsay.

"in that case, anybody can say what they please - in secret and without fear of retaliation - against anybody else and have a reasonable chance of having the military lock them up.

"That's the way of dictatorships. And the Fiji Military Forces do not wish to impose dictatorship."

Military commander Commodore Frank Bainimarama said the coup in May would not have happened if the chiefs had been united.

He was quoted in the Fiji Times as saying that the only thing that united indigenous Fijians was their dislike for Indians.

Commodore Bainimarama said national instability would not end unless the chiefs were honest and open with each other.

Meanwhile, a draft copy of the new National Security Decree will be presented to the National Security Council when it meets next week, according to Attorney-General Alipate Qetaki.

Media reports say people involved in trying to disrupt the economy or security of the country will be "severely reprimanded".

But Qetaki denied the decree was similar to the draconian Protection of Economy Decree imposed after the 1987 coups.

The Magistrates Court hearing for coup leader George Speight and 13 fellow accused on treason charges was adjourned to November 23 after a brief special court sitting yesterday on the prison isle of Nukulau.

+++niuswire


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