Court Upholds Suspension Of Solomon Islands Police Minister

Sikua faces corruption charges

By Assumpta Buchanan 

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, March 9, 2017) – The suspension of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services Edmond Sikua is lawful, the court ruled on Tuesday.

Chief Magistrate John Numapo made the ruling after the prosecution responded to the legal issue surrounding Sikua’s suspension.

Sikua’s lawyer Gabriel Suri earlier challenged the suspension letter issued by the Secretary to Cabinet, arguing it has no legal basis.

But Mr Numapo said:

“I have considered the submission from the Crown in response to the argument put forward by the defence with respect to the legality of the suspension of defendant Edmond Sikua.

“The defence argued that the suspension letter did not come from a lawful source and/or authority and that the Secretary to Cabinet (STC) is not a proper person authorized by any law to issue the suspension notice and therefore, the defendant remains in office.

“I do not intend to delve into the legality or otherwise of the suspension notice as I am of the view that this is an issue for a separate debate at a different time and in a different forum through processes such as a judicial review.”

The chief magistrate said what is important and relevant to the court right now for the purposes of this proceeding is whether the suspension letter is sufficient for the court to rely on to restrain the defendant from having access to government offices and properties as part of his bail conditions as a result of the suspension.

“On face value, I do not see anything substantively wrong or improper with the action(s) of the STC.

“In my view he is merely ‘conveying’ to the defendant in a form of a letter the decision of the Public Service Commission (PSC) to suspend him from duty because of pending criminal charges against him.

“The STC for all intended purposes is deemed to be the ‘administrative head’ of the Public Service overseeing the effective running of all ministries and reporting directly to the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

“He also acts on instructions from the PM.

“I also note that it has been a normal practice that decisions affecting the Permanent Secretaries are conveyed to them by the STC.

“Putting it loosely, the STC is a conduit or a link between the bureaucracy and the political head of the country.

“There is no standing procedures or guidelines that say that certain decisions must be conveyed in a certain way or manner.

“An affidavit was also filed by Eliam Tangirongo, the chairman of the PSC, confirming the suspension of the defendant in the Minutes of the PSC meeting held on the 01st February, 2017.

“The suspension was with retrospective effect from 22nd December, 2016.

“The Minutes of the meeting was also tendered to court as further evidence of the defendant’s suspension from duty.”

Mr Numapo added that this has effectively put to rest the issue regarding the defendant’s suspension and he was satisfied that the defendant has been properly and lawfully suspended by a lawful authority and in this case the PSC.

He said in his humble view, it is immaterial or of little significance as to whether it is the STC or someone else who conveys the decision on the suspension.

Mr Numapo further added that the important thing is that the decision about the suspension has been made and is placed on record.

“I rule therefore, that the action(s) taken by the STC to convey to the defendant the decision of the PSC to suspend him from duty is proper and in accordance with the standing practice.

“I find nothing improper or unlawful about it.”

As a result of this ruling, the bail conditions of Sikua were reverted back to the original conditions.

And that is for Sikua to surrender any or all keys, access cards, identification cards, telecommunication devices, cellular phones, laptop computers, motor vehicles and other uniform items provided to him by virtue of his contract of employment as Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Police, National Security & Correctional Services including passwords and pass codes.

Sikua is not to approach or enter the Ministry of Police, National Security & Correctional Services Head Office at Kalala haus or Ministry of Finance & Treasury Buildings.

His other bail conditions imposed remain in place. 

Meanwhile Sikua’s matter has been adjourned to March 31 for prosecution to update court on the progress of the case and the status of disclosures. 

Public Prosecutor Florence Joel said police need two more weeks to complete their investigations. 

Partial disclosures were already served to the defence counsel, Gabriel Suri.

Sikua is facing seven counts of official corruption on 22 December 2016 for allegedly awarding government tenders worth $630,436.50 [US$80,000] to Beeds Investment, a company registered and owned by his two daughters.  

Prosecution alleged that as permanent secretary, Sikua is by default the chairman of his ministry’s tender board.

It was alleged that between 18 December 2015 and 29 August 2016 Beeds Investments responded to calls for tenders and was awarded business contracts for service delivery to the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services on seven different occasions.

The Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services have made payments of $630,436.50 to Beeds Investments for these services.

Prosecution further alleged that Sikua used his position of power and influence within the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services to manipulate the tendering process for his own and his family’s pecuniary advantage.

Sikua is the third public officer to have been arrested by Janus, since the establishment of the joint taskforce in August last year.

The other two are the financial controller of the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services, Stephen Jude Oto and Inland Revenue Division (IRD) officer Ellison Raoga.

Oto was accused of awarding himself government tenders worth more than $800,000 [US$101,000].

Raoga was accused of receiving payments for remitting a company’s tax worth more than $100,000 [US$12,700].

He faces one count of official corruption and six counts of fraudulent falsification of accounts. 

Solomon Star
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