12 November 2015: Media Release – Militarization of The Police Force Cannot Be Tolerated

Madam Pres - Image“The unexplained, controversial and sudden departure of the Police Commissioner as well as the appointment of the Fiji Military Forces Land Forces Commander to act as the Head Police is clearly continued militarization of various state offices including the Police Force,” says NFP President, Hon Roko Tupou Draunidalo.

“This shows that military rule remains supreme in the country and above civilian rule enforced by the police.

It is evidently clear that Police Commissioner Ben Groenwald was given his marching orders abruptly by the Prime Minister because three police officers are facing prosecution for alleged brutality on an prison escapee” adds Hon Draunidalo.

Hon Draunidalo says police officers being recruited as soldiers in the Fiji Military Forces after being suspended from the Police Force with the Land Force Commander publicly saying they were ‘abandoned’ by the Police Force was also very concerning.

“Mr Groenwald’s confirmation of interference from the military is well and publicly documented in his comments to both local and international media. On Fiji One News on Wednesday 11th November he even goes on to say that ‘the military was harbouring a suspect’ in the Iowane Benedito case and that ‘to him this was perverting the course of justice’,” states the NFP President.

“These are very strong and serious statements coming from the Head of a law enforcement agency. It proves that the military is above the law and is abusing its constitutional authority as the supposed ultimate guarantors of peace and security of the nation, and it throws grave doubt as to whether Parliament as the highest authority of the land really will be respected by the military”, states Draunidalo.

The NFP President says the process behind this saga lends credence to the view that the Prime Minister knew of this interference. The Prime Minister appears to have forced Mr Groenwald out of office and once again abused his authority as Chairman of the Constitutional Offices Commission to make an acting appointment – and that too from the military. By doing this qualified, competent and career police officers who assisted the Commissioner were by-passed.

“The forced resignation of Groenwald is wrong, the appointment of the Acting Commissioner is a case of nepotism and cronyism of the highest order.

Meritocracy has been trashed in favour of jobs ‘for the boys’,” states Hon Roko Tupou Draunidalo.

“This sad episode illustrates the Fiji First Government has no regard for the rule of law and the Constitution that it formulated and forced upon the people of Fiji,” states the NFP President.

“It will also demoralize members of the police force who should now rightly fear the security of their employment after their boss was cast aside,” adds Hon Draunidalo.

The NFP President says the military continue to be a law unto themselves. The local legal fraternity and the international community should stop turning a blind eye to all of this this for the sake of preserving and promoting pseudo-democracy and at least condemn this act in the strongest manner.

The Prime Minister has a lot of explaining to do.
Hon Roko Tupou Draunidalo
President