ARMY EXERCISES IN SUVA RAISE DOUBT, FEAR

Editorial

Fiji Times

SUVA, Fiji (Nov. 30) – According to the Fiji Military Forces Act, the army is charged with the defense of Fiji, with the maintenance of order, and with such other duties as may from time to time be defined by the Minister.

What a mammoth task, one might say an unenviable one for a force, which by comparison, badly lacks the arms, manpower and facilities to adequately defend the nation in the event of an invasion.

But that is what every soldier and naval officer understands. Realistically with what they have, it is impossible to put up a creditable and honest show of defending the country. And that is not their fault. Rather the Government has not seen the need and importance of arming our own forces with modern and sophisticated weapons backed by technology because the question of anyone invading our shores right now is close to zero.

The army, however, has to show every one of its preparedness and willingness to defend the country from foreign forces.

One would understand therefore the need to conduct exercises and training in light of what the army believes is a threat of foreign intervention, courtesy of the Biketawa Declaration, which offers member countries of the Pacific Forum assistance from others in the event of a crisis.

But having said that, the army probably knows that any foreign assistance sought which by the way would have to be one of the last options left for the Government would be for the sole and primary purpose of restoring, then maintaining, law and order.

It should not be viewed as an invasion because it is not. Such assistance is requested by the Government so it cannot be viewed as infringing or posing a threat to a nation's sovereignty and security.

The people therefore have to question the army's real motive in conducting all these military exercises and training in public at this time. If the army wants just to create fear and anxiety among the people, it is doing a very good job of it. It is doing a good job of scaring people, including the very relatives and families of these soldiers.

On a related issue, one of the demands sent to the Government by the army is that it drops all investigations instituted against the army commander and some senior army officers on past and recent cases brought up by the police.

What it implies is that even before charges are laid, the officers are already saying they are guilty.

If they really have done nothing wrong as they claim, they should not really worry about the police investigations and subsequent, if any, court action. Tarnish to the image of this once-proud institution.

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