5 Jun 2006

Fiji government warned to proceed carefully with plans for military

1:07 pm on 5 June 2006

There's a warning that the Fiji government should proceed carefully if it plans to slash the numbers in the army and take note of what's happened in other countries when this has been done.

The Professor of Governance at the University of the South Pacific, Graham Hassall, says the lessons of East Timor and Bougainville should not be ignored when the new government discusses the future of the armed forces.

The local media is reporting that a Defence White paper proposes halving the army by nearly 50 percent, from 3,300 members to about 1,700.

Mr Hassall says the role of the military does need discussion but the future of those affected must be considered.

"If you are going to demobilise forces, you have to do it in a very structured way and you have to look at livelihoods for those people. You simply can't decommission them with the type of knowledge and capacity that they've got, and expect them to simply make their way in the Fiji economy which is a small island economy."

Mr Hassall says because of the record of animosity between the army commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, and various ministers, discussions about the military's future should be widened to involve senior military people and others in parliament.