5 Jun 2006

Defence White Paper in Fiji recommends cutting army by 50%

5:48 am on 5 June 2006

A Defence White Paper commissioned by the Fiji government has proposed slashing the strength of the army by nearly 50% from 3,300 to just 1,700.

The Fiji Sun reports that it has recommended that the cuts should come from the land force or infantry and force headquarters, leaving the army engineering regiment largely untouched.

The Defence White Paper also strongly recommends that the government moves to reassert civilian control over the army.

It says its recommendations are designed to ensure that there is no excuse for the military to enter domestic politics.

The Defence White Paper has also recommended that the police force be strengthened to assume full responsibility for maintaining law and internal security, leaving the military with the primary role of peacekeeping.

The authors of the report say they are aware of the potential backlash against the recommendations from the army or elements of the army, but say the risk could be minimized by providing adequate compensation for displaced soldiers.

The Fiji Sun says the new multi-party cabinet will consider the White Paper's recommendations over the next two weeks.