Opposition MP questions efficacy of 'Restore Blue' initiative

February 26, 2024 12:33 pm

Pio Tikoduadua [left] and Viliame Naupoto

Former Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces Viliame Naupoto has cast doubt on the effectiveness of the “Restore Blue” concept championed by Home Affairs Minister Pio Tikoduadua.

Naupoto suggests that a surge in crime and drug cases as highlighted by the Acting Commissioner of Police indicates underlying issues within the Fiji Police Force potentially attributed to political interference.

Naupoto contends that when politicians intervene in police affairs, the concerns of ordinary citizens are drowned out, amplifying the existing state of lawlessness.

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Minister Tikoduadua had attributed the rising issues to past administrations, a stance Naupoto views as an evasion of the current security situation’s impact on Fijians and visitors.

He further claims that the backdrop to this dispute includes Tikoduadua’s involvement in the suspension of the Commissioner of Police, raising questions about potential political influence within the police force.

Naupoto further criticizes Tikoduadua’s direct interference during the Reclaim the Night march in March last year, raising concerns about political meddling in police operations.

He expresses unease over signs indicating a political alignment of the Fiji Police Force with the government, emphasizing the importance of operational alignment instead.

He stresses that the Force should remain apolitical, ensuring impartial law application.

The Opposition MP challenges Tikoduadua’s recent statements in the media, accusing the previous administration of allowing drug networks to operate with impunity.

Naupoto calls for evidence to substantiate these claims, highlighting the hard work undertaken by the Fiji Police Force in the ongoing fight against drugs.

Naupoto also provides a counter-narrative, citing the establishment of the Narcotics Bureau in 2019 and specialist training for police officers to combat drug-related cases.

He highlighted the challenges faced by the Fiji Police Force, urging government support for modernization and a strategic approach to evolving criminal trends.

Naupoto also emphasizes the need to prioritize the safety and security of all Fijians over political considerations.

In response, Home Affairs Minister Pio Tikoduadua asserts that he has taken note of the concerns raised by Naupoto.

He states that it is our collective responsibility to address the security challenges facing Fiji including crime and drug-related incidents.

However, Tikoduadua says it is essential to approach this matter with a constructive and collaborative mindset rather than resorting to blame and political point-scoring.

The Minister adds that the “Restore Blue” initiative, while criticized, is part of a broader, multifaceted strategy aimed at enhancing the effectiveness and integrity of our law enforcement agencies, including the Fiji Police Force.

Tikoduadua affirms that change of this magnitude takes time and concerted effort, and it is premature to deem the initiative a failure based on short-term observations.

He adds that he believes that the Force must operate independently and impartially, free from political influence.

Tikoduadua says the government is committed to upholding this principle, ensuring that the police force can carry out its duties effectively, serving the best interests of all Fijians.