A FORMER opposition leader has questioned the military’s involvement in the recapture of the five prison escapees when the duty was essentially a police and prisons responsibility.
United Peoples Party leader Mick Beddoes said the police and prisons department were responsible for keeping prisoners in jail and they must take responsibility for the escapees and to recapture them.
“If the police had seen it fit to abrogate its responsibility to the military, they must explain to the people why they felt this was necessary,” he said.
However, Information permanent secretary Sharon Smith-Johns in response said “government makes no apology for allocating all possible resources to recapturing the five prison escapees.”
She said they would do it again given the circumstances.
Mr Beddoes said every citizen, despite his or her station in life, had a right to life and must not be arbitrarily deprived of life.
“I do not condone their alleged actions since escaping, and sympathise with those people who have been traumatised by their alleged actions, but their actions do not justify the brutality meted out by the authorities in their recapture,” he said.
He said as angry as one might be against the escapees and the alleged violent actions they conducted, people cannot and must not forfeit their sense of humanity because they are human beings too and they have the same rights as the rest of us.
“For the authorities to have had to resort to such excessive force to recapture the handful of escapees, even when the authorities would have had a huge advantage in terms of manpower, weapons and other resources at their disposal compared to the relatively lightly armed escapees, says more about the authorities inability to deal with such situations despite their advantage than it does about threat that the escapees really posed at the time of recapture,” Mr Beddoes said.
But, Ms Smith-Johns said the military and police deserved thanks.
“We put the safety of the public first in an atmosphere in which our citizens were being terrorised.
“We would do it again under the same circumstances,” Ms Smith-Johns said.
She said the joint operation between the police and military saw hundreds of men and women mobilised round-the-clock to restore peace and order and recapture these hardened criminals.
“They deserve our thanks for keeping Fiji safe.”