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Fiji back in ‘grip of the military’

Thursday 10 March 2016 | Published in Regional

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SUVA – The leader of the opposition in Fiji says the country is back in the grip of the military after two military men were appointed to key state roles last week.

The government’s been accused of handing out “jobs for the boys” and putting men with dubious backgrounds at the helm of the police and corrections.

The former Land Force commander Brigadier General Sitiveni Qiliho has been confirmed in the role as Police Commissioner.

He has been acting in the role since the South African Ben Groenewald left suddenly in November saying the military had been interfering too much in policing work.

Francis Kean, a former navy commander and brother in law of the prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, has been appointed to the role of Prisons Commissioner.

Opposition leader Ro Teimumu says the appointments are from Bainimarama’s inner circle of military men and show Fiji is still a militarised state.

She says the elections of 2014 were to put an end to eight years of military rule.

She told Radio New Zealand she is not only worried about these men’s strong links with the military but also other longstanding issues.

She says that the police chief Sitiveni Qiliho in particular has many questions to answer about allegations of abuse against him.

She points out that Francis Kean, the man who is now chief of Fiji’s prisons, was convicted of manslaughter in 2006.

Ro Teimumu also says the appointments are unconstitutional because she feels the body which makes the crucial appointments, the Constitutional Offices Commission, has been politicised.

She says it’s dysfunctional and farcical.

She and her appointee, the lawyer Richard Naidu, who are meant to give the commission some balance, no longer go to its meetings because they say it’s just a rubber stamp.

Richard Naidu resigned from it last year. - RNZI