Okay, I think the TV journalists erred in secretly listening in on a meeting they were banned from, but the story is out so it's a bit late now.
Teleni (who seemed a nice guy when we met him during his studies) is in trouble with his espousing of New Methodist shouting style and mixing up religion with policing. Selectively targeting the Indo-Fijian policemen was certainly a provocative decision. Here is what the Fiji Times said - and the disapproval is echoed in numerous Fiji organisations and institutions. Maybe we should blame it on the constant drizzle and rain in Suva!
An unacceptable outburst
Thursday, February 19, 2009
WE find the outburst by Police Commissioner, Commodore Esala Teleni, unacceptable and in extremely poor taste. How dare he attack Indian police officers and accuse them of undermining a crusade which is a matter of personal choice? Commodore Teleni has insulted hard-working Indian police officers and, by extension, their community. These officers have toiled day and night without complaint for years only to be summoned before the commissioner and berated as if they were children.
As if it were not enough to castigate the officers, Teleni ensured that only Indians were present. This pointed to the fact that his attack was clearly against a particular demographic grouping within the force.
Not two years ago Teleni and Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama seized power promising to root out racism and corruption.
Those promises seem incredibly hollow after the police commissioner's outburst.
Even more troubling was Teleni's use of expletives while addressing the officers of the rank of inspector and above. His conduct was unprofessional to say the least. If this is how the most senior police officer in the land conducts himself with his officers, we dread to think what treatment members of the public will receive.
Teleni's outburst appears to have been motivated by sustained criticism of a crusade aimed at promoting Christianity within the force in an attempt to reduce the incidence of crime.
Much of that criticism has been from indigenous Fijian officers who do not accept the fact that religious views have been forced upon them.
Many also believe that through the crusade police resources have been concentrated on activities which do nothing to reduce crime or raise the level of professionalism within the force.
If Teleni wants to reduce crime, he would have more success by putting more officers on the street. By reducing the size of the army and boosting the police force there would be an immediate reduction in crime.
Continued criticism of and unjustified attacks upon officers will do nothing but lower morale. Once that happens, professionalism within the force will suffer. Teleni must take a serious look at the issues which affect the force and ensure that these matters are addressed immediately.
He is no longer in the navy where swearing and threats are an acceptable part of life. The commodore is head of a professional organisation with a proud history of service to the people of Fiji. He would do well to remember that and act with professionalism at all times.
Now if a leader of a professional institution such as the police force sees that there is a need for the men and women to have not only physical fitness (in a gym or running around an oval), mental fitness (appropriate study and reading) and spiritual fitness (time out to meditate, pray) that is fine. However this is a dodgy area when we live in a multi-faith society. An hour a day set aside to look beyond our human existence is good, but perhaps folk like ECREA could work out a spiritual fitness program, rather than the New Methodists. Multi-lingual, multi-faith. The police, army, firemen, all need chaplains and time out from duties and they also need counsellors in extreme situations of great stress, I recognize that. So I hope that this incident is a learning experience, and then move on.
As shown in the photos below of the launch of the crusade at the end of last year, the police crusade was culturally very much ethnic Fijian and Christian and attractive to those who love large gatherings, choirs, youth action songs, and so on. It would not have the same relevance to police officers who belong to other faiths.