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Fears that police violence is escalating

A bus driver was strangled, assaulted and then handcuffed for failing to show his driver’s license in Labasa in Fiji on Monday afternoon.

The police officer has been suspended while an investigation is being conducted. The alleged victim, the bus driver, was charged for failing to produce his license.

It took an intervention from a Fijian member of parliament to quell the situation to some extent.

Screenshots of an incident in Labasa, Fiji where a police officer is seen assaulting a bus driver. Picture: supplied

All of this was captured on a video which has gone viral and has prompted calls from human rights bodies to hold the police officer responsible to account.

The incident took place around 4pm at the busy Labasa Bus Station. Labasa is the biggest township on Vanua Levu, the second biggest island in Fiji.

Owner of the bus company Parmod Chand, said the incident was uncalled for and maintained his driver had not done anything wrong.

“The bus station is small and does not cater for the number of buses that are in service. Even then, we the bus operators have always managed to make things work,” Mr Chand said.

“In this case, the bus driver was in a tight spot. He could not move and was waiting for the way to clear. I understand him being reluctant to show his license because bus drivers have had bad experiences with police and Land Transport Authority officials.

“When the drivers show their licenses, they are booked even when they are not in the wrong. In this case, the driver had done nothing wrong and did not want to be victimized.”

Fiji Human Rights Commission director Ashwin Raj speaking at a seminar. Picture: Twitter

Mr Chand has called on the police and the LTA to look into such behavior by their officials. He said it seemed that there was a revenue collection target and police officers were issuing infringement notices even for things the drivers had no control over.

Member of parliament Lenora Qereqeretabua was at the bus stand as she is on her north tour ahead of the general elections.

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She said the violence was uncalled for and immediately posted on her Facebook page; “Whilst waiting for my bus to Savusavu a few minutes ago I witnessed a commotion in a nearby bus. I saw a police officer trying to pull a diver out of his seat by a handcuff attached to the driver’s left wrist, while passengers gestured and shouted and a student videoed the incident on a mobile phone.

Fijian MP Lenora Qereqeretabua. Picture: Facebook

“So I decided to intervene and got into the bus saying to the police officer, “Excuse me, you can’t do that, what has he done? What’s your (regimental) number? You can deal with this without violence.

“The poor driver said the police officer had his hand on his neck and the passengers who had been protesting backed the driver up. All the while the officer was tugging at the driver’s arm.

“The driver left with the officer, the student handed the phone back to the passenger. I called the bus company to tell the owner what had happened.

“Non-violent conflict resolution is something all of us need to learn from school and those tasked with enforcing whilst upholding the law must learn that there is always a calm way to approach a problem without making it worse. I have offered to be a witness if it is necessary.”

The Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission condemned the reprehensible act of gratuitous violence.

Director Ashwin Raj said the Commission had written to the Commissioner of Police urging them to investigate this matter and ensure that the officer-involved faces the full brunt of the law.

He commended members of the public who witnessed this ordeal for speaking out and condemning this act of violence, and said the Commission will start its own investigation into this matter.

“Every law enforcement office should know that their badge and uniform does not give them the right to use senseless violence on ordinary citizens,” he said.

The Fiji Bus Operators Association said the incident demonstrated the lack of understanding of some police officers about their role and the limits to their powers.

The Fiji Police said they were investigating the matter.

1 Comment
  1. Nitya Nand 3 months ago
    Reply

    This officer should have been in custody by now as per the video that shows for the reason that….
    1. Any driver on the driving seat should not be treated as such.
    Today the police has done this
    which will be followed by others.
    2.Its an attempt to murder. His actions going to bring bad image to Police Force and to Fiji

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