3 May 2006

Reports from Fiji say defence White Paper calls for major cuts in military

8:29 am on 3 May 2006

A report from Fiji says the military is likely to face a drastic cut in numbers if Laisenia Qarase's SDL government is returned to power in the general elections.

The Fiji Sun says Mr Qarase has confirmed there is a defence White Paper on security, but would not disclose any details saying the issues are confidential.

The White Paper is understood to propose a drastic cut in army numbers which currently stand at about 3,300 regular force troops.

Mr Qarase says when his government gets back into power after the elections, it will give serious attention to the recommendations in the White Paper.

But the Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, says the military needs to have the numbers to address security issues in Fiji as well as around the region such as in Solomon Islands.

Mr Chaudhry says they cannot compromise security because instances of violence and insurgency have already been seen in Fiji and around the region.

The military commander, Commodore Bainimarama, says he does not know the contents of the White Paper.