Monday, August 11, 2008

An unacceptable action

An unacceptable action
Monday, August 11, 2008
IT is unacceptable for any minister to have the ability to call the police and order an investigation into a citizen.
When the interim Prime Minister can call from China and order an inquiry into a news article published in a daily newspaper, it is safe to assume that Fiji has become a police state.
On Saturday night police tracked down a reporter of this newspaper and demanded she provide a statement describing her conversation with a politician on Friday.
When the reporter declined to make a statement, she was told that police needed the statement in order to brief Commissioner Esala Teleni who would outline the process of the investigation to interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.
To comply with the legal process, our reporter gave a statement saying she did not wish to speak to police.
Not satisfied with the fact that this woman had complied with the request, eight officers turned up at her home yesterday.
In front of her husband and four children the officers demanded to search her home and office.
No consideration was given to her condition –– she is five months pregnant –– or the fact that her family was watching.
Having taken the reporter from her home, the officers took Serafina Silaitoga to the Labasa Police Station and attempted to question her.
Told that Ms Silaitoga did not wish to be questioned without legal representation, the reporter was told she would be held in custody until the officers' questions were answered.
We find this treatment of Ms Silaitoga –– and any citizen of Fiji –– absolutely unacceptable.
The law allows anyone questioned by police to retain the services of a private lawyer or one appointed by the Legal Aid Commission.
Police officers must abide by the law and the Constitution at all times.
Those who cannot follow the law must be removed from the police force.
Ministers of state must also realise that police officers are not their private investigators or enforcers.
It appears that the ministers of the interim regime believe they can order investigations without following the due process of the laws of the land.
What is worse is that the police do not have the integrity to tell ministers that officers must work independently of the government of the day.
If this does not happen, we are on the road to becoming a police state or dictatorship.

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