Wednesday, 20 February 2008 8:38 AM

Sikua Government's Castles Ban Lift "Irresponsible and Hypocritical"

The government's decision to lift an entry ban on the former police commissioner, Australian Shane Castles has been described "irresponsible and hypocritical".

Mr. Castles, who served as head of the Solomons police force from 2005 to 2007, was imposed the ban by the previous government and declared a prohibited immigrant.

The ban lift is to allow the former Commissioner of Police to return to the country to give evidence in a case against Former Minister for Commerce and Immigration, Peter Shanel.

Mr Shanel has been charged with perverting the course of justice to support the illegal entry in 2006 of Julian Moti into the Solomon Islands from Papua New Guinea.

As part of the investigation into Moti's illegal entry, the former Commissioner of Police authorized a raid on then Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare's office.

Three months following the raid, Mr. Sogavare declared Mr. Castles an undesirable immigrant and fired him.

In a statement, the Leader of Opposition, Hon. Manasseh Sogavare said that whilst the government was laying speculative allegations of misconduct against current police head, Jahir Khan, "they seem to have overlooked the fact that ... Castles was declared a prohibited immigrant on the basis of his own misconduct in office and questionable appointment."

Mr. Sogavare said the former Government was unable to address the matter due to the immunity status Mr. Castles granted under the 1994 Memorandum of Understanding between Solomon Islands and Australia on Development Cooperation (MOU) after being sworn in as the Commissioner of the Solomon Islands Police.

He revealed that just prior to his appointment as Solomon Islands Police Commissioner, Mr. Castles was responsible as the National Manager for the establishment and organization of the International Deployment Group.

This was created under the Howard Government as an AFP business unit to facilitate for law enforcement assistance in the Solomon Islands under RAMSI and in other countries requiring Australian police support.

"Therefore as an Australian Federal Agent seconded to the Solomon Islands Police Force, Mr Castles had a clear conflict of interest as a Police Commissioner because he was still engaged as a Federal Agent of the AFP. Mr Castles' salary was paid by the Australian Government and by virtue of the terms and conditions covering his appointment, he was placed above and beyond the laws he had been sworn to uphold," Mr. Sogavare said.

"Being accorded such privileges for which there were no provisions under our laws will ultimately have consequences on the Government of the day as it will be held liable for any damages or costs incurred as a result of Mr Castles actions as Commissioner of Police," said Mr. Sogavare.

He said that such an engagement was a serious breach to National Security and Internal Stability.

"Various reports and written complaints were submitted to the former government against Mr. Castles from within the Solomon Islands Police Force over his biased attitude and inability to develop local policing, as well as unlawful interferences with prosecution cases that were no longer within the jurisdiction of the SIPF. However no disciplinary action could be taken due to the immunity status he was accorded by the Solomon Islands Government at the request of the Australian Government."

The Opposition Leader questioned how Mr. Castles can testify as a witness against the former Minister when he himself is guilty of providing funds to witnesses in return for statements that were later found by the High Court to be misleading and inconsistent.

"The former Police Commissioner should be held accountable for his actions and brought before the courts or a Tribunal to answer for his actions as a constitutional appointee tasked with a solemn responsibility to uphold the law, not manipulate its enforcement to support a dubious agenda," said Mr. Sogavare.

He said the latest interim report provided by the Commission of Inquiry have also indicated a failure on the part of security personnel to effectively contain and quell the situation at Parliament House which led to the 2006 Honiara Riots.

The failure demonstrated the lack of competence by the former Police Commissioner in dealing with riots.

The Leader of Opposition also pointed out that numerous cases have been thrown out of Court or acquitted because of poor police investigations and this has caused unnecessary suffering to those accused of crimes they never committed.

"This legacy left by the former Police Commissioner has simply established a dangerous precedent for the future peace and stability of this nation," Mr Sogavare said.