A dead police in Renbel and a deaf HQ in Rove

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Commissioner of Royal-Solomon Island Police Force Matthew Varley

BY ALFRED PAGEPITU

THE Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) is being rocked by reports of corruption in its Renbel police post and a Headquarter which us turning a blind eye.

RSIPF headquarters at Rove is being accused of allowing policing in the province to slide to an all-time low, leading to no regulations on social behaviour and policing for people’s welfare in Rennell and Bellona province.

Many have written expressing their concerns to the RSIPF Rove HQ about deteriorating law and order in the province due to lack of policing, but have been met with silence.

Island Sun understands these include former Premier of Renbel, Mr Collin Singamoana, who had written to and paid a courtesy visit to the Commissioner of police in 2017, during which he voiced this concern. Several chiefs and elders of West Rennell have also written letters of concern.

Various people have come forward to Island Sun since 2017, with identical complaints of lack of policing in both Rennell and Bellona islands and the resulting hardships that people there face when they need protection, guidance and mediation.

As early as 2017, prominent Tigoa Chief Steward Taungaika warned that law and order was deteriorating in the province. Rennell and Bellona was without a provincial police commander [and still is] and elders of communities surrounding the provincial capital of Tigoa, west Rennell, also alerted of reckless and unlawful behaviour by ill-disciplined police officers.

Island Sun followed up with RSIPF Rove HQ on the matter, and police media responded, saying that RSIPF would look into the complaints. However, people living in Rennell and Bellona whom Island Sun had spoken to say there is no improvement to policing in the two islands, and it is now at an unprecedented low level.

Last year, the same complaints were raised to Island Sun, which the paper queried RSIPF about, and received the same blanket reply.

This year, the same complaints have resurfaced, and RSIPF is again giving the same textbook response of promising to look into the matter.

Police Media said, “RSIPF welcomes any criticism of how it delivers its services to the people of this nation. However, the criticism must be substantiated with evidence.

“For this reason the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Provincial has been tasked to investigate the allegations of abuse of office, misuse of assets and lack of policing in Renbel Province made by the unnamed person to the Island Sun newspaper. The ACP will report to the Commissioner of Police as soon as possible.

“Despite the numerous challenges faced by RSIPF officers in Renbel Province, the RSIPF is committed to maintaining law and order on the two islands. The recent arrest of two suspects soon after the incident of arson at Tigoa is a good example of how police in Renbel are carrying out their duties with the assistance of officers from the Rove Police Headquarters. The RSIPF continues to need the cooperation of all members of the communities in that Province to make sure people are safe and secure on the two islands.”

Allegations:

Bellona witnessed two gruesome killings within the space of eight months; the first in August, 2018 and the second in April this year, a day before the national general elections. The first was described as a direct result of lack of police presence and activity in Bellona which allowed anyone to freely indulge in drugs and alcohol, an environment where such incident has a high possibility of happening.

RSIPF carelessness and complacency was also implicated in the April killing in Bellona. Witnesses tell Island Sun that police officers were only about a hundred metres from the scene, and had been warned about the row between the victim and the accused an hour earlier but did not respond. Island Sun was also told that the youths were drinking the night before, well into the day, and police officers living near there knew about the drinking spree but did not apprehend them.

Witnesses speaking to Island Sun on anonymity, say, “From where the police officers were living, they could hear the singing, shouting and swearing from the group of youths who were drinking, but they did not bother to go and disperse them.

“In the daytime, few hours from the time of killing, the drunk youths were walking around in plain sight and the police saw them but did not react. It was as if everything was normal for youths to drink homebrew and walk around swearing, brandishing bush knives and threatening people.”

Complainants from Bellona tell Island Sun that lawlessness is rife there.

“In Bellona the Acting PPC [name withheld] resides in his village and does not enforce law and order. Youths and elderly people indulge in homebrew making and consumption, marijuana is planted, sold and consumed openly, gardens have been destroyed due to land disputes, burglary and theft is now a common occurrence, public swearing and intimidation by both drunkards and sober people is a norm. All these happen with no action whatsoever by the acting PPC.

“A young boy’s arm was nearly chopped off during a homebrew drinking session in west Bellona [just after the provincial elections], and no police case has been opened yet.

“The acting PPC has been witnessed several times using the police boat and OMB engine to transport timber belonging to his local church from Rennell to Bellona. And, we’re just wondering if it is ok nowadays to do that.”

Complainants from Rennell express similar concerns to Island Sun.

“The Tigoa police station is reportedly empty nearly everyday. Only the probationers are usually seen by public in the station. The senior constable who looks after the station in the absence of the Acting PPC [name withheld] is reportedly rarely in.

“This same senior constable [name withheld] has been witnessed several times by members of Tigoa public to be driving the police vehicle while drunk.

“The old police landcruiser has been sold to a local. The HQ in Rove is not aware of this.

“The second arson case in Tigoa (burning of Premier’s residence) was avoidable. There was no police operation after the election tie for premier. This same senior constable said there was no threat thus no need for any policing or monitoring of Tigoa town. The same senior officer also refused to stage an operation saying that there was no food rations for officers to carry out an operation.

“The Acting PPC was in Bellona during the premier’s election. Why?

“The team that was sent by Rove HQ to investigate the arson incidents were reportedly driving around in the police vehicle while under the influence of liquor. They ran over the grave of a chief in Teavamagu Village. This sparked anger among the villagers and they followed the police officers all the way to Tigoa town, demanding compensation and seeking retribution. It is understood that they are planning to open a police case.”

It is reported that public do not have any trust or confidence in the police at Tigoa. They complain that it is a waste of time reporting cases to the police, when they know that nothing will be done about it.

“Policing is dead in Tigoa capital, and throughout the province as a whole.”

Island Sun last week reported on a government landcruiser vehicle which a senior constable in Tigoa police station in Rennell had sold months earlier this year, and this same vehicle turned up in a Tender published by the Ministry of Infrastructure Development late last month. The commissioner of Police Matthew Varley had responded by promising to investigate this incident.

Whether or not this would happen remains to be seen, given RSIPF’s track record of neglecting matters in Tigoa police station.