BY JENNIFER KUSAPA
THREE men have been convicted of harbouring non-citizens, an incident which occurred in 2016.
Principal Magistrate Augustine Aulanga in delivering the judgment said the three men; John Mamiong, Charles Takule and Loh Jing Sing, their actions amounted to harbouring unlawful four Bougainvilleans at Metuai camp in 2016.
This occurred at the Metuai camp, SKT Wavasan logging company at Shortland Islands.
The company was also charged with employing non-citizens.
Prosecution said on July 23, 2016, Mamiong, Takule with other men went over to Bougainville by boat. They returned to the logging camp the same day with four Bougainvilleans. Mamiong straightaway accommodated them in a leaf house at a log pond located several hundred metres from the logging camp.
Mamiong and Takule knew very well they were not Solomon Islanders or non-citizens, in other words and their presence at the Metaui log pond area was illegal since they did not have entry visa.
Their unlawful presence at the camp was later communicated to the RSIPF and on July 26, 2016, RSIPF sent a team to the Metuai logging camp and carried out a raid, and arrested the four Bougainvilleans together with the defendants.
The four Bougainvilleans were interviewed by immigration authorities and were ordered to pay spot fines. Thereafter, they were deported to Bougainville.
Aulanga in analysing all the evidence put before the court convicted the three men and acquitted the SKT Company.
“To prove this, the Court must be satisfied with the evidence that the Bougainvilleans were employed by the defendant. Mamiong in his oral evidence admitted that his business entity was responsible for the employment of the securities for the logging operation.
“There is not any direct evidence from the prosecution that the four Bougainvilleans were employed by SKT to work as securities. There is not any written agreement or documentary evidence such as payslips, cheques etc, or any form of evidence akin to this to establish this crucial aspect of the prosecution’s case. Takule and Sing denied employing the Bougainvilleans and said that it was ALRC that employed them to provide security for SKT,” Magistrate Aulanga said.
Aulanga said the admitted evidence of the four Bougainvilleans did not specify which company they were working for at the logging camp given that there were three corporate entities involved or contracted in the logging operation. Their evidence was vague and unhelpful.
Magistrate also said prosecution could have explored more in cross examination but was unable to negate this evidence adduced by the defence.
“I cannot even draw any inferences to impute the defendant to this charge given the flimsy state of the prosecution’s evidence.
“Therefore, the defendant, SKT, must be given the benefit of the doubt and must be acquitted forthwith of the charge of employing unlawful non-citizens, contrary to section 69(1) of the Immigration Act 1,” Aulanga added.