Savua Enquiry: When Police were caught with their pants down
Part 2: Savua’s dereliction of duties and failure to use riot bus
Summary of Part 1- Ratu Mara had named Savua and Rabuka as key players in 2000 Coup. In the aftermath of Speight’s coup on 19 May, 2000, it was suspected that Savua was the real player to take over from Speight. But after military refused to side with ethno-nationalist and rebels, he got cold feet. I therefore present my Liu Muri published articles of Fiji Daily Post newspaper to expose ignorant people to Fiji’s violent coup history. This is to provide an insight into Fiji’s turbulent history and why military needs to have a tight control to contain ethno-nationalists who cry for democracy but never believed in it. Please go back and read part 1 in FIJI PUNDIT if you missed it.
Here is PART 2:
BACKGROUND TO POLICE COMMISSIONER’S INVOLVEMENT
We highlight issues surrounding the involvement of the Police Commissioner, Isikia Savua in the events leading to the armed takeover of the Parliament on 19 May, 2000.
Prior to May 19th, Mr. Savua had told the nation that the Police Force wasn’t in a position to contain the crowd who were intending to take to the street in protest against the Coalition Government. His comments had the effect of boosting the spirits of those involved in organising a march and deflect attention of the Government away from security concerns at the Parliament.
Mr. Savua cautioned through his public statements that the May 19 march would be bigger and less peaceful. He expressed concern that the police might not be able to cope with more protesters. Reflecting one of his comments during this period, we quote, “I really do not believe that they will continue to have peaceful marches, they may do other things”.
|The proud Police Force in Fiji were shamed by the defective leadership of Savua who failed to utilise the available resources to control crowd and enforce law and order on 19 May, 2000.|
The May 19th March was a crucial part of the plan to take over the Parliament and overthrow the elected Government. By the Commissioner's own admission, it was likely to be bigger and less peaceful. This should have triggered the full-scale deployment of emergency response measures, and measures to tighten security at the Parliamentary complex - because the marches were essentially against the People's Coalition Government. This did not take place.
At this stage the Commissioner should have:
(i) Formulated a strategic response to deal with a violent march and put in place a Police Operation Order. This did not take place.
(ii) Involved the Police Mobile Unit in planning about the police response to a violent march.
(iii) Informed the Home Affairs Minister and through that the Prime Minister about these developments. He did not do so.
(iv) And, through his minister, he should have informed the Military about the proposed march and asked that it stand by for possible support. This he did not do so as well.
(v) He failed in all the above-that is a clear case of dereliction of duties and negligence. How was he found innocent of any wrong-doing by this Kangaroo court, headed by Justice Timoci Tuivaga that heard his case in secret?
THE “NEUTRALIZING” OF POLICE MOBILE UNIT
The Police Mobile Unit has well trained personnel with latest equipment to counter violent protest marches and civil disturbance/disobedience. In fact the only reason why substantial resources of the state are used to support the Police Mobile Unit is to ensure that the Police have the rapid deployment capacity to deal with disturbances of the type that was predicted by the Police Commissioner speedily and effectively. Why weren't its services put to use on the day of the civilian takeover and immediately thereafter?
An Inspector opened up on the deliberate failure to effectively deploy the Police Mobile Unit which should have come into action on the day at both the Parliament and in controlling those involved in the march after the conditions of the permit for the march had been breached. This is what he has to reveal:
The riot squad was fully equipped and capable of handling the situation on that day. The riot squad ought to have been deployed around the parliament complex in advance of the march given the likely threat to the parliament on that day. Then later in the day they were instructed to sweep the city after the rioting had already commenced - and he says that the riot squad arrived too late for it to be effective. At a crucial time when the riot squad needed all its resources, the Police Commissioner directed the Squad's bus to go to Yat Sen school and pick up the Commissioner's son. This was the height of irresponsibility.
This inspector concludes that:
The event could have been avoided if Police Mobile Unit retained its specific role with which it was first or originally established … Our Riot Unit did our best given the limited resource but bad and poor decisions made a lot of difference. The Commissioner incapacitated the unit by withdrawing its riot control gear and by ensuring that the senior officials were unable to give directives to the unit.
Another senior police officer similarly noted that the Police Commissioner gave instructions to his unit to take the Mobile Unit bus to pick up his son from the School and drop him at his residence and post 4 guards at his place. This is an extremely significant issue. According to him:
The Police Mobile Unit had with it on the day the following riot equipment, 300 gas cartridge (tear gas), 100 hand grenades, 4 self loading rifles, 3 X .303 rifles with 300 rounds and 3 greener guns with 100 rounds.
All these riot gear, according to both these officers were more than adequate to control the crowd and bring the situation at the parliament under control. However, these equipment were held in the bus. By instructing that the bus be routed to pick up his son, the Police Commissioner would have made sure that riot equipment were removed from the parliament at a crucial time when the rebels were still trying to secure their control over the parliamentary complex and the reinforcement provided through those participating in the march not reached the parliamentary complex.
Also alarming was the fact, according to one officer that:
There was no gazetted officer to give instructions to disperse the crowd. So the squad was left with the earlier instructions to let the marches pass - and thus actually enter the parliament to bolster the numbers of the hostage takers. This was deliberately done to cripple the effectiveness of the unit.
The riot unit of the Police was rendered ineffective in the critical early hours after the armed takeover of parliament. It was submitted that this was deliberate action on the part of the Commissioner to ensure that the takeover the Parliament was not derailed by the actions of a professional police force. The lack of instructions and the lack of orders to deal with the problem on that day puzzled senior offices. This was most telling and has hurt the morale of those professional Police Officers who felt that they could effectively have dealt with the entire situation on May 19th had proper instructions been issued, and the chain of command operated as it ought to have. The failure of this unit is not only traced to the incompetence of the Police Commissioner, but also his deliberate decisions (as revealed later) to ensure that the Police did not undermine the objectives of the terrorists on that day.
TO BE CONTINUED in PART 3: Savua had packed to shift to PM’s office: He used police resources to commit treason