CHUUK - FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA: JUSTICE OR ANARCHY

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By Delihna I. Manuel

KOLONIA, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (September 16, 2002 Kaselehlie Press)---On the morning of September 6, 2002, the Mayor of Udot, Tadashi Wainit, ordered the Udot municipal police officers to forcibly remove eleven National Police Officers and two FSM Assistant Attorney Generals, Catherine Wiehe and Mathew Crabtree, from his Udot home.

"That was the most terrifying moment of my life," said one of the Assistant Attorney Generals who was removed.

The following is a brief history of the situation that culminated in the Udot removal incident.

On January 24, early this year, the Kaselehlie Press published an article about the Mayor of Udot, Tadashi Wainit, about alleged election tampering. Of the twelve counts of charges that were filed against him by the FSM National Government, included were: that he had deprived the people of Udot of their rights, threatened and practiced other improper influence in political and official matters, and interfered with orderly process of election.

According to the Criminal Information in FSM Criminal Action 2001-1519, FSM vs. Tadashi Wainit, on February 25, 2001, before the March National Election, Wainit allegedly held a meeting with the village chiefs of Udot and other municipal officials to instruct them about the candidates that should receive votes. According to the charges, Wainit told the people in the municipality to vote only for the candidates endorsed by him [Wainit]. That trial was to begin on September 9, 2002.

On September 4, 2002, an application for a search warrant unrelated to the 2001 charges was filed with the FSM Supreme Court, based on previous evidence that Wainit had committed National Criminal Offenses during the 1999 National Elections and that he had committed the National Criminal Offense of seeking to intimidate a governmental witness previously filed against him, for which he was scheduled to go to trial for on Monday, September 9, 2002.

According to a source, upon consideration of the application for the warrant, Judge Martin Yinug of the FSM Supreme Court issued the warrant and ordered that the National Police search three different locations for evidence to be used in the new charges against Wainit. Specified locations were: (1) the T&S Mart, a store owned by Wainit; (2) the Udot Municipal office located on Udot proper; and (3) the residence of Wainit located in Monoue Village, Udot municipality. The search warrant stated that the search was to begin "on or before September 5, 2002 (not to exceed 10 days)", and that the warrants were not to continue beyond 4:00 p.m. on any given day.

All three warrants were executed the next day, September 5th, by three teams of National Police and the two FSM Assistant Attorney Generals, Catherine Wiehe and Mathew Crabtree, being present in Udot to assure that the warrants were executed in respective manner to the employees of the Udot municipality and the property of Wainit. With regard to the execution of search warrants on T&S Mart and the Udot Municipal Offices, the search was completed successfully that same day. That same day, while at Wainit’s Udot residence, the five National Police Officers and Crabtree were met with aggression and resistance. After serving the warrant to a Municipal Police Officer, which Steve Finnen of Saimon and Associates, Wainit’s Attorney, claimed did not happen, Crabtree and the National Police Officers were still denied access and a key to Wainit’s residence. However, there were no overtly violent threats to the National Police and they did not feel threatened even though it was obvious that their presence was not welcomed, said a source that was present at the scene.

After numerous radio calls between the municipal officers and some unknown person at the other end, the National Police and Crabtree were permitted access to the house. At that time, they were also informed that the house key was not available. The team resumed entry into the house with minimal damage, according to Crabtree. According to Finnen, door locks were broken. Since the house was a three-story building and contained numerous rooms, the search was not completed and had to cease by 4:00 p.m., pursuant to the Court’s Order. A National Police and Chuuk State Police officer were left behind to secure the house to avoid tainted evidence, with assured safety from a Captain of the Chuuk State Police (who also claims to be the Chief the Udot Municipal Police), according to a source.

On the morning of the 6th, Wiehe, Crabtree, Wainit and his counsel, Finnen had appeared in the FSM Supreme Court for the previously scheduled hearing on Wainit’s previously pending criminal case. Before the hearing, Finnen voiced his client’s objection to the presence of police officers at his Udot home, claiming that the warrant had expired. Finnen’s concern was based on the fact that the warrant specifically stated that it was to be in effect from eight o’clock to four o’clock on the afternoon of the 5th. It was explained to Finnen in the hearing that the warrant was not to exceed 10 days by both attorneys and was verified by Larry Wentworth, Judge Yinug’s clerk, through Yinug.

Early that same morning, Finnen filed a motion, upon which the warrant was executed without probable cause. In the motion, as transcribed by the Kaselehlie Press, it states: " Tadashi Wainit moves this court for a hearing pursuant to 12 FSMC section 308 on the issue of probable cause for the search warrant are clearly outside the limited scope of the warrant." The motion stated that items had been seized which appeared to have no connection to the limited purpose of the warrant. Such items included videotapes of Wainit’s daughter entitled Fools Rush In, Jingle All The Way, and audiotapes of Chuukese Band, Rechuuk. He also said that the search, which occurred on the 5th, on Wainit’s residence, was conducted upon information and belief by breaking into his home. "I believe that the National Police went into Wainit’s home, heavy handed," stated Finnen. According to Finnen, the motion was faxed to Judge Yinug in Yap but was never discussed because the teleconference hearing was cut off.

On September 6, 2002, 11 National Police Officers, Wiehe and Crabtree went back to Udot to continue executing the warrant. They found out on their way to the FSS Palikir, after the hearing, that the officers they had left the previous evening at Wainit’s house were forcibly removed and threatened by orders of Kent Cheipot, Director of Chuuk Department of Public Safety.

Upon approaching the residence, the Chuuk Police Captain threatened to arrest and remove the officers and the attorneys. To support his threats, the Captain directed the municipal police and the people of Udot, who were also present at the scene, to form a line and prevent that National Officers from entering the house. The Captain was again shown the warrant and asked to disperse the mob. He was also informed that should he continue to interfere with the execution of the warrant, he was to be arrested. The captain retreated but informed the municipal police to remain where they were. According to a source present at the scene, the mob (roughly 500-1,000 individuals) permitted the National Police and the Attorneys to enter the house but remained surrounding the house.

Shortly after entering the house to continue the search, Wainit and his family arrived at the residence. Wainit insisted that all the municipal officers and the mob join in making an entry into the house, which he did, and immediately was followed by dozens of municipal police officers and members of the mob. The mob and the municipal police officers forced themselves upon the persons of the National Police and the Attorneys, taking firearms from the National Police and threatening to arrest them for trespassing, handcuffed them and one of the District Attorneys, Crabtree. They were then forcibly removed from the house. The National Police and the Assistant Attorney Generals were separated, each one surrounded by five-six members of the mob. After a period of time, Wainit informed the Attorneys, Crabtree and Wiehe, that they had two options: leave immediately or he would detain them. Wainit was told they would leave peacefully. After approximately a half hour, the firearms were returned and the National Police, Wiehe, and Crabtree returned to Weno.

On September 7 and 10, Wainit wrote two letters to the FSM Speaker, Jack Fritz, and the FSM Attorney General, Paul McIlrath, stating that several items were taken from his house and that his house had been trashed by the National Police.

"The original case, of which the warrant was issued, has been postponed and further information cannot be discussed due to pending investigations. The FSM National Government takes this very seriously and we will do everything possible to see to it that it’s resolved," repeatedly stated FSM Attorney General McIlrath.

No charges have been filed as of press time. Because of the volatility of the situation, many sources wished to remain anonymous.

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