Opinion

Increase Will Go A Long Way To Beef Up Our Defence And National Security

The economic implications of national security cannot be taken lightly. When investors and business organisations have confidence in our security, they will invest.
10 Jun 2019 13:42
Increase Will Go A Long Way To Beef Up Our Defence And National Security
The Republic of Fiji Military Force’s Navy hydrographic vessel RFNS Kacau, which was donated by China. Photo: Fijian Navy

Opinion:

Defence and national security are among the country’s top priorities for the next four years, the 2019-2020 National Budget shows.

The ministry has received more than $16 million in its allocation, $10 million more than what it got last year.

Other ministries that received increases are the Ministry of Health and Medical Services ($349.77 million from $334.86 million last year), Sugar Industry ($70.39 million from $62.33 million and Communications ($74.61 million from $64.95 last year).

Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum made it clear in his Budget speech that the Budget “recognises that the dollars and cents of our nation’s economic output can’t possibly capture all aspects of our people’s wellbeing”.

He said: “More important than any financial assessment is how secure Fijians feel in their homes and when they go about their business.

Every Fijian deserves to hold absolute confidence that they are safe, their families are safe, and –– if they ever do face a threat –– the Fiji Police Force is committed and capable of translating their concerns into prioritised actions.”

The restructure of the Police Force continues to increase its capacity and capability to ensure that people are safe in their own homes and businesses are protected.

We still get complaints from some people on the Police response time, but overall there has been a significant improvement through training, more vehicles and equipment.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said another 995 special constables would become regulars. They will boost the strength of the Police on foot patrols and provide Police presence in areas where they are not visible.

A number of Police stations will be upgraded.

The Police are currently fighting a war on drugs and criminal activities.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum touched on this in his address.

“The nature and tactics of criminal operations are evolving, leading to a rise in criminality, particularly in the trade of hard and synthetic drugs. Our Fiji Police Force needs to evolve in response.

If Fiji is increasingly seen as a transit point for drug traffickers, that can carry serious spill-over effects of violence. That’s not a future we’re prepared to accept. We’re sending a clear message to hard and synthetic drug traffickers: doing business in Fijian waters won’t get you to lucrative drug markets in Sydney or Auckland, it will get you bunk space in a Fijian prison cell.”

To achieve these goals these measures have been announced:

  • $800,000 has been allocated to fund a stronger effort to combat drug trafficking, with dedicated staff tasked with finding and rooting out networks of hard and synthetic drug dealers and suppliers;
  • $720,000 will go towards the purchase of four new intercept boats for the Police to strengthen law enforcement’s presence on the seas.

The Fiji Navy will also be providing the Police with additional personnel and vessels to assist with maritime surveillance, with a $1.1 million allocation set aside to fund personnel costs aboard two new vessels, the RFNS Volasiga and the RFNS Savenaca. The Australian and Korean governments have donated these vessels; and

n $4.0 million has been allocated to Corrections Services for capital expenditures to undertake major infrastructure works to improve the security, and the quality of life, in our prisons.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said “that’s just for our national security, because creating humane environments within prison walls is actually proven to reduce rates of recidivism.”

He said “when you give people respect, they’re more likely to act in a respectful manner themselves, and that’s a key tenant of the highly successful Yellow Ribbon project we’ve already undertaken.”

From a holistic perspective Fiji cannot stand in isolation when it comes to regional security.

Our national security is inextricably linked to regional security.

Transnational crime, illicit drug trade and the threat of terrorism continue to worry law enforcement officers in the region.

The Christchurch mosque attacks in New Zealand showed that terrorism could happen anywhere and we in the region are not immune to it.

Intelligence gathering and surveillance is expensive business.

One conservative estimate says it costs several millions of dollars to put one terrorist suspect under surveillance, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

The monitoring of our 200-mile exclusive economic zone remains one of our big challenges.

All these operations cost money and the increase in Budget allocation to the ministry will go a long way to beefing up our capabilities to protect our citizens and our national interests.

We are fortunate that New Zealand and Australia help us to patrol our exclusive economic zone.

China has also helped by donating our newest navy boat.

Fiji has played a prominent role in promoting regional defence and security co-operation.

It has urged respective island states to work in collaboration in ensuring the maintenance of security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of not only the individual States, but also that of the region.

This would require situation analysis and sharing of pertinent, timely and quality information on defence and security issues of the past, present and future.

From Fiji’s perspective security has serious economic implications.

It can build or destroy investor and business confidence.

The increased Budget allocation will enhance the ministry’s efforts to create the environment that is conducive to doing business.

Feedbacknemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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