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35+ years of activism & feminism in Fiji

Published

30 March 2020

Author

Fiji Women's Rights Movement

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NGOCHR Concerned With Armed Assistance To Maintain Public Order 30/03/20

NGOCHR Concerned With Armed Assistance To Maintain Public Order

30/03/2020

The NGO Coalition for Human Rights (NGOCHR) reminds the Fiji Police Force on the important responsibility they have in protecting the rights of all citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important that all official COVID-19 responses incorporate a rights based approach.

The Fiji Police Force Commissioner Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho stated last week that assistance would be sought from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces to enforce measures to strengthen their monitoring efforts in the greater Lautoka restricted zone, following the confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The NGOCHR is concerned by images circulated on social media platforms, of uniformed and armed RFMF soldiers outside the premises of the Fiji National Provident Fund office in Lautoka. The deliberate display of armed military personnel to maintain social distancing is heavy handed and unnecessary, as it only fuels public fear and intimidation.

The NGOCHR also notes comments from the Republic of Fiji Military Force Commander Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto clarifying that military personnel who are assisting police in the COVID-19 operations will not be armed at any time.

“This is good to note but in the future, we urge the government and law enforcement authorities to cease intimidation tactics as the first response to situations like COVID-19. There must be a more comprehensive response that is inclusive and collaborative with all stakeholders and partners, which align to human rights and the principles of democracy,” said NGOCHR Chair Nalini Singh.

“We understand that law enforcement personnel may struggle to get citizens to observe restrictions and social distancing, however, it should not be used as an excuse to increase armed military presence on our streets, which is unacceptable as we are still a democracy."

There are laws in place that address any breaches of restrictions but also guarantee that citizens’ rights are protected whilst ensuring that public order is maintained.

The NGOCHR wishes to remind the public of the responsibility we all have in observing the restrictions in place, beginning with the nationwide curfew.

It is our individual commitment to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Fiji, and of equal importance is adherence to the law (by all citizens) especially avoiding prosecution by law enforcement personnel.

 END

The Members of the NGOCHR include the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre (FWCC), Fiji Women's Rights Movement, Citizens Constitutional Forum (CCF), FemLink Pacific, Social Empowerment and Education Program (SEEP), and Diverse Voices and Action (DIVA) for Equality Fiji. Pacific Network on Globalization (PANG) and Haus of Khameleon (HoK) are observers.