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Ex-MP assaulted by army

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

OUSTED Provincial Development Minister Ted Young says he was punched twice in the mouth by an army officer at Queen Elizabeth Barracks yesterday.

Mr Young, the acting national director of the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party, was summoned to the Delainabua military camp yesterday morning for "discussions" with senior military officers.

He said that after being made to wait for an hour in a cell, a senior officer came in and punched him twice.

"A very senior military officer came in and threw a couple of punches at me then he went outside," he said.

"Then Qiliho (Staff Officer for Operations, Lt-Col Sitiveni Qiliho) came to interrogate me," he said.

"Apparently, they were not happy with an article which the SDL Party prepared in reaction to the set up of the National Council for Building a Better Fiji."

Last night interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Saiyad-Khaiyum said special conditions applied under the Public Safety Regulations and this must be recognised.

While he condemned the assault on Mr Young and advised him to report the abuse, Mr Saiyad-Khaiyum said members of the public needed to remember the public safety regulations meant the military had certain powers.

Mr Young said he received two phone calls telling him a senior officer wanted to speak to him about the SDL statement which was reported in a daily newspaper yesterday morning.

He said he chose to go to the camp rather than have soldiers come to his home to fetch him, as he did not want to put his family in an awkward situation.

A colleague from the party office accompanied him to the camp.

On arrival, Mr Young said he was put in a cell and told to wait for a senior military officer.

He waited for about an hour before the first of two senior military officers came into the room with the first one hitting him twice.

The statement released by Mr Young as the SDL acting national director said the military lacked discipline.

"That was a very small part of the press statement," he said.

Lt-Col Qiliho confirmed Mr Young was at the military camp yesterday for discussions but said he knew nothing of the assault.

He did not wish to reveal the identity of the senior officer who "talked" with Mr Young before his meeting.

At home yesterday after returning from the camp, the usually outspoken politician was in a contemplative mood and had facial bruises.

Mr Young said he received "the normal warnings given to people who have visited the camp" before he was released.

He said he had forgiven the military for its actions towards him and he had also asked his family and friends to pray for them.

He said he had filed a complaint with police but had opted not to seek help or file a report with the Fiji Human Rights Commission because "I don't have that much faith in the Human Rights Commission right now".

Commission director Doctor Shaista Shameem said it was up to Mr Young which body he chose to take his complaint to.

Fiji Women's Crisis Centre co-ordinator Shamima Ali repeated her appeal to the military and the interim Government to immediately halt the beatings and ensure all those involved in maintaining law and order respected human rights.

Mr Young is the third person in two weeks to be summoned by the military for "discussions".

Two weeks ago businessman Ulaiasi Taoi was detained and assaulted for allegedly being involved in anti-military blog sites.

Ex-MP Losena Salabula was also detained.

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