30 May 2007

Fiji's interim PM opposes use of Fijians as mercenaries

7:07 am on 30 May 2007

Fiji's interim prime minister says he strongly opposes the use of former Fiji military personnel as mercenaries overseas.

Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who is also the interim home affairs minister, says Fiji supports the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries.

His comments follow the visit of a United Nations fact finding team on mercenaries to Fiji two weeks ago which found Fiji nationals were being exploited overseas and urged Fiji to sign the UN convention.

Commodore Bainimarama says the interim administration recognizes the laxities in the government system to address issues connected with mercenaries.

He says the cases in Bougainville and to some extent Iraq are examples that have posed dangers to the lives of Fiji citizens being lured by promises of big money.

Commodore Bainimarama says the case of Timoci Lolohea, a local recruiter, also bears witness to the danger of ordinary people being exploited.

Mr Lolohea collected several million dollars from about 20,000 Fijians as recruitment fees in 2005, left for the Middle East early last year and has not been back to Fiji since.

Commodore Bainimarama says the Fiji government is also being blamed for condoning a process that it should have controlled and regulated from the beginning.