The Leader of Opposition, Ishmael Kalsakau, told the court yesterday that he warned the then Prime Minister, Joe Natuman, not to go near the internal police investigation on the alleged mutiny case.
In his evidence in chief, Mr Kalsakau said that he was the Attorney General at the time and was aware of an investigation into the rift within the force and he remembered exchanging mails advising Mr Natuman not to intervene.
He told the Court that at the time he saw efforts made to remove the former Acting Police Commissioner Arthur Caulton in his position, which he advised that if Natuman intervenes then it will be taken as diverting the course of justice.
Mr Kalsakau said that he remembers Christopher Griggs, a private prosecutor appointed to deal with the case who went to see him in his office and he was worried that this case may “fall over”.
He said that he received a letter from the Prosecution office to advice the Prime Minister not to interfere with the police investigation in which he did, but Mr Natuman went on to collaborate with the Acting Commissioner of the police at the time, co–accused in the case- Aru Maralau, and issued letters to halt the investigation.
Kalsakau said that at the time, the government was his client so his higher principal set out by the law is to defend it within proceedings.
He told the court that it is his opinion that the ongoing political intervention in the police created the division at the time as a result of the ongoing instability.
The former AG said that a it was good idea to leave the matter handled by the Vansec, the Police headquarter in the country. Earlier yesterday, former Acting Police Commissioner Caulton said that when the Prime Minister arrived in the country from an official trip to China, he was then suspended from his position on September 15, 2014.
Caulton said that he strongly believed that he was suspended because of his action of appointing a police internal investigation team to investigate the alleged mutiny case.
He said that when Natuman was in China, he issued a memo to the Commissioner’s office to call off the investigators tailing evidences and conducting interviews but the Acting Commissioner didn’t and Caulton strongly believes that was the contributing factor to his suspension and later termination in December 2014. Caulton said he appointed George Toomey with a formal letter as the leader of the investigating team.
In cross examination Mr Caulton said that he knew there was something in the force that needed to be fixed as attempts were taken to do it in 2012 with a reconciliation that continued until 2014 when he ordered the investigation.
The former Acting Commissioner of Police said that the issue was very critical and likely to create division within the force.
George Towmey confirmed that he was appointed the leader of the investigation team before he formally appointed his officers.
He confirmed that the investigation was to investigate nine other high ranking officers who were allegedly involved in the mutiny case.
Towmey said that they took about 50 statements during their investigation that were sent to the prosecution upon completion on August 5, 2014.
He said that while they were investigating, Mr Caulton was suspended and Aru Maralau took office as the Acting Police Commissioner. The head of investigation said that he recalled a meeting that was called by the then Acting Compol with the investigating team and told them that he received advise from the Prime Minister Natuman to cease all investigations.
Mr Towmey said that they had a recorder machine with them at the time and they recordered the whole meeting with Commander South Willie Ben and Job Esau.
He said that after that they transcribed the audio to the paper and kept the copies for legal purposes.
Towmey said Mr Maralau told the meeting that Mr Natuman asked them to cease the investigation awaiting Mr Caulton to resume work from suspension.
He told the Court that his investigation led him to the Chairman of the Police Service Commission at the time, Sam Dan Avock, who then threatened them to cease the investigation.
He said that they have received letters from Prime Minister Natuman that if the team won’t stop the investigation then there will be further actions.
He said that Mr Natuman and Maralau were claiming that the decision to stop the investigation was for the best interest of the force and the people of Vanuatu.
Towmey confirmed they were all suspended in 2014 for carrying on with their investigation.
He said that the only reason why he kept on going with the investigation is because he was appointed by Caulton and it should be Caulton to call off the investigation.
The head of investigation said that they later successfully challenged the suspension and were reinstated to the force by the Minister of Internal Affairs at the time, Moana Carcasses, on August 28, 2015.
Their case was then withdrawn by the then Acting Public Prosecutor John William Timakata.
Deputy Commissioner John Malon Taleo testified that according to his knowledge basing on the law, a minister has power to make decision on management perspective of the Police but has no power to call off an investigation.
Sergeant Tony Berry said that he was on the investigating team and was the one that transcribed the audio. He confirmed they were suspended on half pay for investigating the case.
Berry said that in the audio, Mr Maralau told them that he is not seeking revenge because he was on bail at the time in relation to the case they were investigating.
He was asked if in his interest he was serving outgoing Commissioner Joshua Bong or Arthur Caulton, he said that he was just a police officer doing his job.