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GIZO, Solomon Islands (August 22, 2000 – Wantok Press/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---The Solomon Islands’ government has appointed a new police commissioner to replace the expatriate holder of the post.

Morton Siriheti, the new political appointee, took his appointment under oath before the Acting Governor General, Paul Tovua, in Honiara yesterday.

The New Zealand post holder and former Auckland police commissioner, Rererangi Rangihika, left the country for Australia a week prior to the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) coup on June 5.

A government spokesman confirmed yesterday that the Prime Minister, Mannaseh Sogavare, without the resignation of the legitimate post-holder, appointed Siriheti.

Sources close to the Public Service Commission, the recruiting body of the Solomons government, said normally the post needed to be advertised.

Sources said the government decision to bypass the legal requirement had caused friction between the Public Service Commission (PSC) and the Prime Minister.

It reported that the Prime Minister, without prior consultation with the PSC chairman, appointed Siriheti on the ground that the post-holder had "neglected duty."

In response, the PSC refused to endorse the appointment, saying it was unprocedural because the New Zealander had not resigned and had only been given leave to get medical treatment in Australia.

Sources said the PSC finally bowed to the Prime Minister’s directive after the PM threatened to fire the chairman.

Police commissioner Siriheti, of ethnic Malaitan origin, took early retirement in 1999 amid controversy over his alleged involvement in corrupt dealings.

Since the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) took over the Solomon Islands police armory and weapons on June 5, the majority of non-Malaitan police officers have fled Honiara.

The MEF operation under Wilfred Akao decided to recruite100 MEF members to the force and also ceased paying wages to more than 100 non-Malaitan officers, who fled after the June coup.

The worsening situation in the MEF operation led the president of the Solomon Islands Police Union, Superintendent David Bale, to call for the appointment of a commissioner.

Superintendent Bale said members of his union had encountered many problems that only a police commissioner could address.

The post of the Solomons police commissioner had been effectively vacant since June of this year following Rangihika’s departure.

Siriheti becomes the second Solomon Islander to hold the job, following two overseas appointments in the last four years.

Title -- 2915 Solomon Islands: New police chief appointed Date -- 22 August 2000 Byline -- Duran Agiki Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Wantok Press,,  22/8/00 Copyright – WP Status -- Unabridged

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