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Regime revives Fiji spy agency

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The interim Cabinet will revive the National Security Council and the Fiji Intelligence Services.

A statement from the interim Cabinet said this was a move to combat threats of terrorism against Fiji.

Interim Defence Minister Ratu Epeli Ganilau, who made a submission recommending the revival of the two establishments, said the national security landscape "internally and externally, is evolving and changing at a very fast pace".

"Given this unpredictable future national security landscape, the NSC is to be revived as soon as possible to better safeguard Fiji's national security matters in the medium to long-term," he said.

The NSC was established in 1990 to protect Fiji from espionage, sabotage, sedition, foreign intervention and terrorism.

It was disbanded in 1999, the interim Cabinet said.

Ratu Epeli said the Defence White Paper of 1997 had recommended the establishment of the NSC to concentrate on national security like terrorism and clandestine operations.

"It has recommended that the NSC be assisted in its work through the provision of defence and intelligence policy advises by an Intelligence Advisory Committee or a Fiji Defence Council," he said.

Ratu Epeli said after the events of 9/11, 2001, in the USA, and recently in Bali, the focus of national security agencies the world over, "is to combat rising terrorism worldwide".

"Because of the invisible nature of these terrorism threats and activities across national borders, it is now timely for Fiji to revive and re-energise its national security agencies to better prepare the country for any eventualities in the future," he said.

He said the NSC would be the highest forum to discuss and oversee security matters of the State.

Chairman of the council will be the prime minister. Other members of the council will include the head of the RFMF, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, the ministers of defence and finance and the Commissioner of Police.

The Permanent Secretary of Defence will provide Secretariat support to the work of the NSC.

The Fiji Intelligence Services was established by the Rabuka Government in the early 1990s under the post-1987 interim Government.

In 1999, when Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry became Prime Minister, the FIS was disbanded.

Mr Rabuka said last night moves were afoot way before Mr Chaudhry disbanded FIS to have it done away with.

"We will be seen as going back to a police state," he said.

"We need to sharpen police and military intelligence to develop their relationship with international agencies.

"That should be the focus of the police, not the army.

"Police need to beef up their intelligence unit," he said.

Former FIS director Metuisela Mua could not be reached for comment last night.

Mr Mua was later jailed for 1999 coup-related offences.

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