The Police must be politically neutral
Monday 16th August 2021
Joint Statement by the Leaders of the Opposition Parties
Recent comments by the newly-returned Commissioner of Police are unlikely to assure Fiji citizens that the police motto “Salus populi” (the good of the people) applies to all the people equally.
In a recent statement, the Commissioner of Police criticized “cowardly rhetoric” and “inciteful situations which have sprung up lately”. He further said, “We have to be smart in how we use the law to eradicate such inflammatory expressions which lack any substance.” He claimed public anxiety had been “cooked up by a small minority group.”
These statements come at the time when leaders and other members of opposition political parties have been hauled into the CID Headquarters in Suva to be questioned on their criticism of the infamous Bill 17 to amend the iTaukei Land Trust Act. A member of the National Federation Party was detained for 48 hours, and his home raided for the same reason.
Role of the Police
If they wish to succeed in maintaining law and order, the Police need the confidence of the people. For this, the Police must be seen by the people as independent of politicians in Government. This independence means that all are treated equally, without fear or favour.
The Commissioner’s recent statements are thinly-disguised references to the criticism of Bill 17 by the opposition political parties. It is not his role to comment on political issues. He claims that there is “public anxiety” resulting from the opposition comments. But this is merely an excuse to threaten those who disagree with the Government.
The Opposition parties play a critical role in providing the people with alternative views on national issues. This balance is fundamental in any democratic society where people must be fully informed of all sides of the issue. It is the right and duty of all political parties to express their opinions on Fiji’s governance. In a democracy, this is how different views are accommodated. This avoids violence and confrontation of the kind we see in other places around the world.
The people look to the Commissioner of Police to protect our lives, our legal rights, and our property. But his statements suggest that he instead wants to intimidate those who oppose the Fiji First government. This is not the true democracy of which the Fiji First party constantly boasts. If this intimidation continues, Fiji will become a police state.
Call for assurance
In pursuit of peace, stability, freedom, and democracy in Fiji, the Leaders of the Opposition Parties call for the following:
the Police Commissioner to assure the people of Fiji that the Police will remain politically neutral and will focus on maintaining law and order in a fair, independent and lawful way;
the people of Fiji to write to the Commissioner and the Government to indicate their views on the threatening statements of the Head of the Police Force; and
an end of the militarization of the Police Force and the appointment of career police officers as the Head of the Force.
Hon. Viliame Gavoka
Leader of Social Democratic Party (SODELPA)
Hon. Biman Prasad
Leader of the National Federation Party (NFP)
Mr. Mahendra Chaudry
Leader of Fiji Labour Party and former Prime Minister of Fiji
Mr. Jagath Karunaratne
Leader of Freedom Alliance
Mr. Savenaca Narube
Leader of Unity Fiji