Fiji military chief, made head of police

Fiji's deputy military commander has been appointed head of the nation's police force, amid claims that both military and police officers have been involved in deadly assaults on civilians.

The Constitutional Offices Commission on Friday announced that deputy military commander, Captain Esala Teleni, would be Fiji's new police commissioner, taking up the post next month.

Teleni - a key ally of military commander and coup leader Frank Bainimarama - was appointed over two senior police officers who had also sought the permanent post.

"The Constitutional Offices Commission interviewed all the candidates and after deliberations, the commission decided to appoint Captain Teleni as the new police commissioner," commission chairman Rishi Ram told the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation.

Teleni was chosen over Acting Police Commissioner Romanu Tikotikoca, and former senior police officer Tuikacivi Mateiwai.

Fiji's military and police forces have been plagued by allegations of wrongdoing since Bainimarama overthrew the elected government of Laisenia Qarase in December last year.

In the most recent case, some 30 police officers have so far been questioned over the death in custody of a robbery suspect. The death of Tevita Malasebe, 30, is being treated as murder.

The Fiji Times has reported that a post-mortem examination revealed Malasebe died from internal injuries.

Malasebe is believed to have been taken from his home at Nasinu near Suva by a group of police on Monday. His family was told he was being taken to a local police station in relation to "minor matters".


But when his mother Anisa Nakuila went to the station about an hour later, she was told her son had not arrived.

The next day family members were asked to go to a local hospital, where they were told Malasebe was dead. Nakuila said she saw her son's body in the morgue and he was badly bruised from the neck down.

Fiji's Coalition on Human Rights deputy chairman Reverend Akuila Yabaki on Thursday called the death "an appalling tragedy" and said an immediate investigation should determine how Malasebe had died.

Since the December coup, there have also been reports of people being killed at the hands of the military, including 19-year-old Sakiusa Rabaka in February, and Nimilote Verebasaga, whose body was found after he was taken to a military camp.

International human rights groups have also repeatedly called on Fiji's military to stop summarily detaining members of the opposition and civilians opposed to the military regime.

Reporters have been among those targeted by the military, which has warned them against filing reports critical of Bainimarama's regime.