25 Jun 2005

Fiji military defies government order to stop talking to villagers about the Reconciliation Bill

8:05 am on 25 June 2005

Fiji's military has defied a government order to stop its public relations programme to inform villagers in remote areas about the contents of the Reconciliation and Unity Bill.

Radio Fiji reports that the order was issued by the chief executive of the home affairs ministry, Dr Lesi Korovavala.

But the military is adamant that the public relations programme is a crucial part of its core business, especially if there is a threat to national security.

The military chief of staff, naval Captain Esala Teleni, has told home affairs in a letter that the military is above politics, and maintains its independence and neutrality in exercising its national security role

He says the military stepped up its public relations role because of the 2000 crisis and the current exercise is to educate the public on the contents of the Reconciliation and Unity Bill.

Captain Teleni says the teams are visiting rural people who are easily swayed to perform traditional obligations as they did when they supported the perpetrators of the coup.

He says the military assessment is that the Bill will have serious long-term consequences for the security and stability of the country.