Are Solomon’s Police Incompetent? Miss Beche-de-Mer Evidence

Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Commentary

Are Solomon’s Police Incompetent? Miss Beche-de-Mer Evidence

By Ednal Palmer

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, May 27, 2014) – The State and people of Solomon Islands have been robbed of SB$10 million [US$1.3 million] – a daylight robbery that police interestingly reluctant to investigate.

On October 14, 2013, a consignment worth around SB$10 million was removed from the Fisheries Ministry compound.

The 1,598 kilograms of Beche-de-mer was seized by Police and Fisheries officials in Ontong Java.

The consignment belongs to the state and people of Solomon Islands.

There were reports of political linkages to the consignment.

Last week, the Minister for Fisheries and Police Minister were grilled in parliament while the Acting Police Commissioner was probed by the media on the issue.

When answering questions on this issue in Parliament last week, Minister of Fisheries, Alfred Ghiro said his office attempted unsuccessfully to recover the consignment and confirmed that they had already referred the matter for police investigation.

Minister of Police, Chris Loare when asked said he does not know about the progress of any investigation into the stolen consignment.

Acting Police Commissioner Junita Matanga when questioned by the media said they prioritized the riot last week and in order for police to investigate, people should furnish to police evidence for police to investigate.

Interestingly, when asked yesterday why the investigation was stalled, when in fact there was public admission by those who were responsible for removing the Beche-de-mer, police said, they are still looking for evidence.

The Solomon Star put to police that on October 17, 2013, two clear days after the Beche-de-mer was removed, Dr Reginald Aipia came out publicly and admitted he led a group who removed the Beche-de-mer with approval from a senior fisheries official.

"After the Beche-de-mer consignment was removed, Dr Reginald Aipia admitted publicly in an article published in the Solomon Star on October 17, 2013, he led a group and removed the consignment. Why are police not investigating this theft when a lead was evident? It is a criminal offence to steal from the state and people, let alone SB$10 million worth of Beche-de-mer."

In response to the above questions yesterday police said "It's an ongoing criminal case though pending, police are still seeking evidences to prove everything beyond reasonable doubt.

"Regarding the admission from the Dr. It is advisable as RSIPF acting police commissioner has voiced in many press conferences, if you have anything against the police or anyone, bring forward your evidence and police will deal with it, for here say evidence won't prove anything."

That interestingly generated more clouds over the competency and independency of the police force.

There were initial unconfirmed reports the consignment have been removed from the fisheries office under the discretion of some politicians.

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