Safety fears high in Western province after arrested group of men flee police custody
By Gary Hatigeva & Alfred Pagepitu
THE 29 Bougainvilleans arrested near Gizo on Tuesday for allegedly entering Solomon Islands waters illegally, have reportedly escaped from police custody and are currently at large.
Reports suggest that the escape took place sometime between 7am and 8am. They had been held awaiting formal questioning at the Gizo police station.
While Island Sun is yet to verify claims that the Bougainvilleans had been aided in their escape, it is understood that police in Gizo were only made aware after receiving reports of a harassment incident after 8am.
Minor incidents around Gizo yesterday morning were connected to the escapees, which caused panic among residents and got the police in Western province to advice businesses in and around the region to close while they work to settle the matter.
Western premier Mr Wayne Maepioh in response has declared closed all schools, liquor outlets, bars and night clubs in Gizo, Munda, Noro and surrounding islands. A curfew has also been imposed from 10pm and 6am.
Meanwhile, reports of incidents linked to the escapees have been ruled out by the authorities and focus remains high on the men’s escape.
Police in Gizo have refused to give out further details into the escape incident but reports reaching this paper reveal that the escapees took advantage of the fact that the gates were left opened ‘intentionally’, something police are yet to confirm.
Reports said the group’s arrest was based on illegal entry to Solomon Islands waters but officials said if reports of the group trying to interfere with domestic matters is true, that would also lead to a national matter.
“That would mean these men are trying to take matters of any laws, whether it be here in Solomon Islands or in Bougainville, into their own hands.
“And that, we do not tolerate. If they are genuinely concerned about the incident in Noro, they should let the laws of this country take its course so justice can be served.”
Meanwhile, officials from the Western Provincial Government have made a public announcement for the closure of schools in Gizo and are also calling on their residents to stay calm as they are working together with Honiara police to ensure the situation is contained and peace is upheld.
They have also reminded and warned residents not to spread rumours that would create panic and chaos.
It is understood that members of the Honiara Police and its Response Unit (PRT) are currently in the provincial capital to help ground officers deal with the incident.