Editorial comment | Discipline, patience and sacrifice

Newly recruited police officers during the police passing-out parade at the Fiji Police Force grounds in Nasova on Friday, May 19, 2023. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

New police recruits were reminded to be selfless, have high morals and to be ethically strong by the acting Home Affairs Minister Filimoni Vosarogo.

He spoke to 184 recruits at a passing-out parade at the Nasova Police grounds yesterday. He also spoke about following lawful orders for life. “The uniform you now wear wields great power and authority and with authority comes great responsibility,” Mr Vosarogo said.

“I urge you to never, ever forget that. Your character will be tested by how you handled the power that your uniform gives you.”

In saying that, we are reminded that in February this year, Minister for Home Affairs Pio Tikoduadua called on law enforcement agencies to stop all forms of violence and brutality against civilians.

His comment came in the wake of a report of an alleged assault by corrections officers against a young man.

“I deplore brutality by any part of government — particularly those services that are supposed to uphold it and I am calling on them, particularly their leaders, to stop it,” he said.

“There cannot be any justification for that I am saying.”

He called for respect of the law. The Government, he said, planned to make changes to ensure law enforcement agencies understood their roles and responsibilities.

“I understand that there are legacy issues, but these are issues that we will fix in time. Our plan is to make, particularly the Fiji Police Force and the Fiji Corrections Service, to understand that their first responsibility is to report to the law and to the law alone, which means they must uphold the law to protect the law.”

It was a powerful statement — upholding the law to protect the law! He also spoke about legacy issues. We reflect on the years, and the number of allegations leveled at the men and women in blue for abuse and brutality. This, unfortunately, seems to be ingrained in some members of our security forces.

The question is how do we get rid of this? You have force, and violence, pitted against the rights of Fijians sometimes. We have said this before. It is not easy controlling emotions in some circumstances, for instance, when prisoners escape from custody, or when police officers are assaulted or stoned as in the case of the three officers in Ba in February this year.

The officers were attacked at Nukuloa, with one officer injured. A police vehicle was damaged in the incident and three suspects were arrested and charged with serious assault, damaging property and for being drunk and disorderly.

In saying that, we reflect on discipline, in both the members of the security forces, and the public.

We reflect on laws that govern how we are expected to live our lives daily, and how they are expected to protect the rights of Fijians. Our law enforcement officers have the task of upholding our laws, and they must do so without allowing emotions to dictate their actions. It isn’t always easy to keep their emotions in check under trying circumstances. That demands great discipline, patience and sacrifice.

It isn’t a role for the faint of heart. It demands great respect for the rights of Fijians, and a greater sense of responsibility! We acknowledge all those men and women who stand up for the law! And we congratulate our new recruits.

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