3 Sep 2002

Vanuatu prime minister says mutiny charges justified

10:18 am on 3 September 2002

The prime minister of Vanuatu, Edward Natapei, says he believes the bringing of mutiny charges against 27 senior police is justified.

Seven of the group were charged last week, and the remainder are to be summonsed to the court this week on mutiny and inciting mutiny charges.

It follows the arrests a month ago of 15 senior public officials on conspiracy charges over the appointment of new police commissioner.

Mr Natapei says he does not believe the group was trying to bring down the government, but they had acted illegally and came close to arresting him.

"They were trying to prove that there was some plan and it involved the government so they started by arresting people who were closely working with the government and also I think they only stopped short of arresting the Prime Minister and the private secretary to the president was also arrested."

Meanwhile the 27 officers, who had been suspended, have been reinstated after a custom settlement at the weekend.

The Police Services Commission is to be established and its first job will be to choose a new commissioner, after the quashing of the previous appointment.

The Pacific Resource Concern Centre in Fiji has welcomed the customs reconciliation ceremony performed by the police and the government to end the tension in Port Vila.

Its director, Hilda Lini, says constitutional governance, western judiciary and western legal procedures do not always have the capacity to deal with people's energy and determination when their conscience is clear that they are defending what is right.