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Calls for military to clean up 'rogue elements'

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USP's Pacific Journalism Online

SUVA: Fiji's most influential daily newspaper today bitterly condemned the military over a weekend incident in which soldiers are alleged to have confronted police at gunpoint over rebels who had surrendered.

The pre-dawn confrontation happened at the tiny police post of Lami on the outskirts of Suva and followed an incident last week when armed soldiers raided the office of a senior public servant heading the Public Works Ministry.

The Fiji Times called on the military to clean up its act and deal with "rogue elements" who were intimidating the police force and the public.

"For too long now rogue elements within society have been allowed to run loose, creating havoc and instilling fear in the hearts of ordinary, law-abiding citizens," the newspaper said in an editorial.

"The military has instituted a witch-hunt as it tries to find the source of political problems which have plagued the nation since May 19.

"As a result, innocent people have been injured, their reputations tarnished forever.

"Soldiers barge into public offices and demand to see Government officials as part of their ongoing investigations.

"If this is allowed to continue, people with personal grudges will be able to call the military and make baseless accusations against others, knowing full well what the accusations will be.

"It is time for Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama to stop his officers and men from carrying out these bullying and intimidating tactics."

The Fiji Times conceded that the military had a role to play in national security in the difficult time since the coup staged by failed businessman George Speight.

"So far that role of providing roadblocks, sentries for installations which need protection and a quick response to major emergencies has been executed diligently," the paper said.

"That is where the role ends."

The role did not include interrogating police officers at gunpoint.

"Commodore Bainimarama must realise that the public feels safe knowing the army is there, albeit in the background, should the need arise.

"But the longer troops are allowed to carry out rainds on homes and offices in search of civilians, the less safe will people feel."

While the investigations into suspects involved in the overthrow of the Mahendra Chaudhry-led government must go on, "heavy-handed tactics by the army will only serve to drive prospective witnesses underground".

The military should sort out its own problems and leave civilian investigations to the police, the paper added.


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