Vanuatu Police Mutiny Report Worries Internal Affairs Minister

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Investigation pending over allegations of unrest in police force

By Jonas Cullwick

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, July 5, 2012) – Vanuatu’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Georges Wells, has expressed grave concern at the police mutiny front page article in last weekend’s issue of the Vanuatu Independent newspaper calling it ‘very serious and very insightful’ in content and intent.

Speaking in his office Tuesday, a visibly worried Mr. Wells said after reading the news item, he summoned the Acting Police Commissioner, Arthur Caulton, to his office and inquired of him about the truth behind the story. He said the Acting Commissioner told him, he also had summoned his officers to his office after reading the story and everyone was as surprised as the Minister to read the article.

The Vanuatu Independent quoted ‘A group of police officers’ as saying "a significant number of Vanuatu Police Force (VPF) officers warning the national government and all community leaders that the current unrest in the VPF would escalate with serious consequences."

"Who are these group of Vanuatu police officers quoted by the Independent newspaper? This is serious, and I want to know," the distressed Minister stressed.

"The media cannot speculate because no coupe is happening and this is not Fiji, all it is doing is putting fear in the minds of foreigners. And as Minister responsible for national security. I cannot allow a repeat of 2002. 2002 was a lesson and those responsible are still outside," he added.

In reference to the suspension of the Commissioner of Police, Joshua Bong, Mr. Wells said under the current Police Act, CAP105, the minister responsible for police cannot discipline the Commissioner nor is the Police Service Commission. Only the President of the Republic of Vanuatu who appointed the Commissioner has the powers to interdict, suspend or terminate the Commissioner’s appointment.

"But an amendment is now before the State Law Office to allow for the Police Service Commission to be able to recommend to the Minister of Internal Affairs to interdict or suspend the Commissioner of Police and the Head of State to terminate the Commissioner’s appointment" Mr. Wells announced.

He added that the VPF is committed to providing very high national security all the time and because of this he confirmed two high ranking police officers Senior Sergeant Jackson Noal and Major Job Esau, have been interdicted.

"The people of Vanuatu must understand that this is a normal process of dealing with officers who are found with serious allegations against them to remain outside of the force while investigations take place, and if they are found innocent they will be reinstated, or else their case will go before the Police Service Commission, which will either demote them for a time, suspend them for a time or even recommend the termination of their appointment," he explained.

He added that these three senior officers have been interdicted for serious allegations of misconduct.

"For instance, the Commissioner has a security service company working at Warwick Le Lagoon Hotel, Iririki Hotel and the Grand Hotel which places a huge conflict of interest in his position."

Mr. Wells said the mutiny story is ‘a very serious matter’ which he said if need be he will get the names of all those police officers in question and he warned that the government can even order the arrest of all those responsible.

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