Fiji Military Commander Clarifies Press Statements

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Tikoitoga: No admission of torture, will respect constitution

By Ana Madigibuli

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, June 24, 2014) – RFMF Commander Brigadier-General Mosese Tikoitoga says he did not admit that citizens had been beaten and tortured by the military, saying instead that his exact words were that he would not deny the assaults took place.

Brig-Gen Tikoitoga was reacting to a story by Australian newspaper the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday that quoted him as having "admitted that citizens had been beaten and tortured by the military regime."

"I wouldn't deny that these things happened," he said to the Sydney Morning Herald.

"But a lot of these people were actually trying to instigate violence by creating anti-government movements or militant groups."

"They were talking on the radio and so on; if you let them continue to have a voice, you create a potentially dangerous environment. So it was the lesser of two devils."

The USP journalism department had also made a statement questioning Tikoitoga's comments.

But when approached on the issue yesterday, Brig-Gen Tikoitoga said the comments were taken out of context.

[PIR editor’s note: Radio New Zealand International reported that when Tikoitoga "was asked to clarify statements in Australian media that the military would not tolerate a government trying to change the constitution. ... [he] reiterated [that] amendments to the constitution are allowed if they pass a majority in parliament and public referendum but a complete rewrite is not permitted."]

"I did not admit to anything, let's get that clear, what I told the journalist at the time was that I would not deny that some people were taken to task," he said.

"I said I would not deny it because there were so many reports done and there were so many investigations carried out on that issue.

"One thing that I question is the timing of the reports in the Herald and The Age and how it has been taken totally out of context and how political parties are trying to make comments including the USP people.

"I stand by my statement to the public of Fiji that the Republic of the Fiji Military Forces is apolitical as we are here to do our job and that is what we will stand by.

He said military involvement or a push from other political parties or commentators to include the military in political discussions would not help the RFMF achieve their apolitical aspirations.

"What I question now is the timing of that paragraph to be put out as we near the elections, it's very mischievous to a point that it has now questioned the integrity of the RFMF in a period where we have quite clearly told the public of Fiji that we want no part in political discussions.

"We do not support any political party and we are ready to accept any government that comes after election and we will respect the Constitution," he said.

"I am sincerely asking political parties and commentators not to take those comments out of contexts.'

He said his full interview to the media organisations were not published.

In their statement questioning the beatings, USP journalism lecturer Dr Mathew Thompson said the new military chief's endorsement of torture to silence critics was disgusting.

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