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Divisions have existed since 2002 police mutiny

By Jane Joshua PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Jan. 20, 2010) - Tuesday January 19, 2010 will go down as a historical day not only in the history of the Vanuatu Police Force but Vanuatu as a whole when the first national reconciliation occurred between [the Vanuatu Mobile force] and their colleagues from the Police and the Maritime Wing 300 Vanuatu Police Force members.

Police and the Vanuatu Mobile Force (VMF) commanders put end to the petty rivalries that threatened national security at times in the past.

The reconciliation initiated by Police Commissioner Lt.Col Joshua Bong was between the boys in blue (Police), the greens (Mobile Force) and the Vanuatu Maritime Authority for past conflicts, in particular the 2002 Police mutiny case.

Minister responsible for the Force Moana Carcasses applauded Commissioner Bong for taking the initiative saying: "It is not easy to say sorry in public, bravo" quoting a text from the Bible in the book of Nehemiah.

"We must be united; we cannot serve the nation with a divided Force. Life is too short to fight each other."

The important ceremony which took up the whole morning yesterday saw Commissioner Bong making an apology:

• to the men in green which was acknowledged by VMF Commander Willie Vire,

• those in blue, acknowledged by acting District Commander South Supt Kelison Bule and;

• the Maritime Wing which was acknowledged by Maritime Commander Timbaci Tamata.

Commissioner Bong admitted there have been differences in the Force but from now on it is a clean slate, the challenges faced are stepping stones to achieve tomorrow’s vision and goals.

"For us we see the factors contributing to the issue as administrative and political and we will look at it, learn and it will guide us," said the VMF head Lt.Col Vire while Supt Bule appealed for such events not to happen again. The Maritime Commander also said communication breakdown during that time was a major factor and assured that next time they will remain neutral and not take sides.

On behalf of all ex members former Police Commissioner Mael Apisae whose appointment in 2002 sparked the unrest thanked Commissioner Bong for his initiative. The ceremony drew to a close with a special ritual that saw all taking part in the Lord’s Supper, shaking hands over water under the bridge and a sumptuous lunch.

Many may recall the issues then which saw senior Police officers such as the former Police Commissioners Patu Lui (2006), Mael Apisae (2002), acting Maritime Commander Timbaci Tamata who faced court and their not so lucky counterparts that is the then acting Police Commissioner Holi Simon, Eric Pakoa (District Commander South), Api Jack Marikembo (former assistant Commissioner-Crime) and Paul Willie Reuben who were convicted and jailed for two years.

The core of the conflict was the position of commissioner after Peter Bong left the office in 1998 and replaced by Api Jack Marikembo.

Marikembo served as acting commissioner until Mael Apisai was formally appointed in 2002 resulting in the mutiny.

As a result Robert Diniro was appointed commissioner in February 2003.

Diniro was suspended in September 2004 and was officially removed from office in July 2005.With the conflict at its peak by September 2005 140 positions became vacant within the police force.

But while small acts of reconciliation between individuals and churches have happened this was the first recognized one at the national level.

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