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Tegavota says he’s received numerous threats

By Eddie Osifelo HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Feb. 2, 2011) – The chairman of the Correctional Services Parole Board resigned yesterday in the Solomon Islands.

Philip Tegavota in a letter to the Minister of Police and Correctional Services stated his life and safety were under serious threat.

"I cannot afford to live under threats for the next three years as chairman of the parole board," he said. "I have been carrying out my duties as a lawyer for the Government for three years, as legal adviser to the former development bank of Solomon Islands (DBSI) for two and half years and as private legal practitioner for 23 years under the principle of friends to all and enemies to none. I have been living under that principle during these years which has now been threatened," Mr. Tegavota said.

The parole board has come under heavy criticism from political leaders, individuals and the Solomon Islands Bar Association.

This was for recommending to the former Minister for Police and Correctional Service, James Tora for the release of the Member of Parliament (MP) for North Malaita Jimmy Lusibaea on license.

Mr. Lusibaea had been sentenced to two years and nine months jail last year, following his guilty plea to charges of unlawful wounding of a person and assaulting an on-duty police officer.

Following his release on license, Mr. Lusibaea was qualified under the constitution to perform his functions as a member of parliament.

Under section 37 of the Correctional Service Act every prisoner is granted a one-third remission to the sentence imposed by the court.

Speaker of Parliament, Sir Allen Kemakeza said Section 38 of the Correctional Service Act and Regulation 198 of the Correctional Service Regulation gave the minister power to grant further remission.

"Thus, one-third remission of 33 months is 11 months," he said.

"The balance would then be 22 months. Considering that High Court backdated Hon Lusibaea’s sentence to 11 March 2010 to 14 January 2011 it totaled up to 10 months," Sir Allen said. When the Minister granted a further 95 percent to Hon Lusibaea’s effective sentence he is left with 1 month, 1 day. This is the effective sentence," he said.

However President of the Solomon Islands Bar Association (SIBA), Rodney Kingmele described the recommendations of the parole board an attack on the independence of the judiciary.

Speaking at the opening of the legal year on Tuesday, Mr. Kingmele said the parole board was implicit in its decision that it did not agree with the sentence imposed by the high court and it could substitute its decision for the sentence imposed by the court.

Tegavota said he was prepared to appear before the court and assist to testify the basis of the Parole Board’s recommendations should the matter end up in court.

Resigned Minister Tora appointed the four member committee of the Parole Board for a three year term on November 1, 2010.

The members are resigned Philip Tegavota - chairman and Dr. Henry Daiwo, Pastor Wilfred Atomea and Rhoda Sikilabu.

Tegavota operates PT Legal Services, a firm in Honiara.

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