Fiji Military Recruits Ex-Police Officers Facing Assault Charges

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Commander dismisses SODELPA questions: RFMF not political football

By Maika Bolatiki

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Sun, Nov. 10, 2015) – We will not be used as a political football field, says the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF).

This was the response from RFMF after the Social Democratic Liberal Party had questioned their actions to recruit three former Police officers accused of sexually assaulting an escaped prisoner.

SODELPA’s general secretary, Pio Tabaiwalu, in a statement sent yesterday, questioned the military’s commitment to the rule of law in Fiji by this action.

"We are not going to respond to any political comments made by any political party and in this case, SODELPA," RFMF spokesperson and Land Force Commander Colonel Sitiveni Qiliho said in response.

"Don’t drag the RFMF into the political field."

The three former Police officers allegedly sexually assaulted prison escapee Iowane Benedito unlawfully and indecently.

[PIR editor’s note: RNZI reported that ‘Fiji's Land Force Commander Sitiveni Qiliho says the military's lawyer will represent three accused police officers who have been recruited to the military's ranks.’]

Benedito had escaped from the Suva Corrections Centre on November 12, 2012 and the alleged incident happened on November 28, 2012. They were interdicted by Acting Commissioner of Police, Isikeli Ligairi, who at the time of Commissioner Ben Groenewald’s overseas trip, had the power and authority act.

Colonel Qiliho said the RFMF had a constitutional role to play and would remain at that.

"For politicians to make political statements against the RFMF, we will remain silent," he said.

Colonel Qiliho did confirm that the three former Police officers were recruited into the RFMF.

He said the Fiji Police Force had abandoned the three accused so RFMF recruited them because it cared for the welfare of those in the security force.

"The RFMF cares for the men and women in the security forces and at all times stands by them," Colonel Qiliho said.

Police Commissioner Ben Groenewald said: "The Fiji Police Force has its own disciplinary proceedings. If a person commits a crime and he is charged for a crime then he will be interdicted. That is the process. We do not follow procedures prescribed by other forces.

"We have honorary alliances and the fact is that we will keep to our principles. If a Police officer commits an offence and is being charged for the offence, he or she will be interdicted and that is the prerogative of the Commissioner."

He said since the three accused were now enlisted by the military, it was now an issue for the military.

Colonel Qiliho said they would release the three accused to attend to their court case when called by the court.

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