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SUVA, Fiji Islands (April 5, 2002 – Daily Post/FijiLive)---The Government needs the support of the army to achieve its development programs now in place, Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase said yesterday.

Speaking at the Republic of Fiji Military Forces Headquarters at Nabua, Mr. Qarase said as Prime Minister it was his over-riding duty to move the country forward, "united and secure."

"The stability of the country is a vital national concern because with stability comes development and the RFMF is expected to continue to play a leading role in reinforcing and strengthening stability," he told the officers and men at Queen Elizabeth Barracks.

Mr. Qarase said the Government needed to assure all citizens and their families that they could look forward "to a future here in Fiji with confidence, certainty and opportunity."

He said stability should start in the RFMF institution itself, "as signs of disunity in the RFMF trouble many citizens".

He said this disunity surfaced in the mutiny of November 2, 2000.

"I tell you today that you owe it to the country to come together. You owe it to your fellow citizens to stand shoulder to shoulder, as comrades dedicated to the values and traditions of honor, duty, obedience and loyalty," he said.

Mr Qarase called on all soldiers to be united in a common resolve to rebuild their organization, develop their professionalism and strengthen their unity.

"There is simply no place here for factionalism, bickering or personal agendas."

He urged soldiers to "let the people see their solidarity and then their confidence in them will be unshaken and make the nation’s foundations stronger."

No development would be achieved if there were no stability and unity, he said.

Paying tribute to what the army did during the political upheaval in May 2000, he said it was the work of the military that saved Fiji.

He said when he received the call from Nabua, he left behind "the secure and comfortable world of banking and moved into the turbulent and uncertain arena of politics."

He said he promised then he would do everything he could to repair the damage the nation had suffered, "to bind and heal its wounds and bring back stability, order and the rule of law."

Mr. Qarase said the RFMF had been the "peoples savior during those terrible times and now, when everything is back to normal, criticisms had been leveled at how the army ruled at that time.

"I personally believe the army acted in what it considered to be in the national interest at that time."

He said the RFMF helped immeasurably in putting the nation back on the path to parliamentary government.

"The country was on its knees, but RFMF helped Fiji rise again.

"Now Fiji has been welcomed back into the world community and with a democratically elected Government now in place, they had started programs for the people that would need the support of the army, especially in the area of stability."

The Prime Minister asked the army to live within its means.

He said the army’s budget allocation represented the third largest area of expenditure of public funds.

Mr. Qarase urged senior officers to keep their spending within limits and to constantly seek ways to reduce costs.

He said they had the additional challenge of providing employment opportunities for our soldiers returning from peacekeeping duties in Lebanon this year.

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/FijiLive.

For additional reports from FijiLive, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/FijiLive.

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