Speaker urges better support for Corrections officers amidst high-risk conditions as AG promises changes

Speaker urges better support for Corrections officers amidst high-risk conditions as AG promises changes

By Rashika Kumar , Cindy Chand
Friday 19/04/2024

Speaker of Parliament Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu has shared his experience of being imprisoned and is urging the Fiji Corrections Service to better resource the wardens as they have a very high-risk job while Attorney General Siromi Turaga has assured the Speaker that there will be changes but it is going to take time.

Ratu Naiqama was sentenced to eight months imprisonment in 2005 for his role in the 2000 coup after being found guilty of unlawful assembly but he served only 11 days and served his sentence extra-murally.

While speaking during the debate on the 2018–2019 and 2019–2020 consolidated review Report of the Fiji Corrections Service Annual Report, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu says Corrections officers are more exposed, especially when they go with the prisoners to clean some bushes or elsewhere as prisoners hold a knife and it is quite risky for the officers.

He says when you are thrown into jail, the prisoners do not look at you as a colleague who has broken the law but rather your standing in the community.

He also highlighted the risky work of the officers.

The Speaker says he hopes that proper financial help is provided to the Ministry.

While thanking the Speaker for sharing his journey and first-hand experience, Turaga says he has been trying to impress upon the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Professor Biman Prasad and would like to invite him to visit the Fiji Corrections Service and see what it is like first-hand and only then one can understand because addressing the needs and infrastructure depends on the funding.

He further says the previous administration failed to prioritize the concerns of the facility owing to the influx of offenders, including those related to drugs.

Turaga says some of the initiatives to address this include the utilisation of early release programs for eligible inmates and the anticipated re-establishment of a Parole Board to facilitate early release applications.

The Attorney General also spoke about the setting up a facility for offenders who are mentally challenged, including those struggling with drug addiction.

Meanwhile, FijiFirst MP Mosese Bulitavu recommends that there should be separate centres allocated for remand and convicted inmates respectively for Natabua, Vaturekuka, and Korovou Corrections Centres.

He says this will reduce the issue of overcrowding and reduce the negative influence on persons in remand.

Bulitavu also says all food preparations including storage facilities, kitchen, and dining hall should be revamped to OHS compliance status.

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