Five high ranking officers in the Vanuatu Police Force (VPF), including Commander Vanuatu Mobile Force (VMF) who is also Acting Police Commissioner, Colonel Robson Iavro, are currently on forced leave pending an independent 30-day investigation.
The four other officers are Commander South Superintendent Jackson Noal; Deputy Police Commissioner Willie Ben; Commander North George Songi, and Inspector Davis Saravanu.
Director of Corporate Services Unit, Smith Tebu is amongst the people that will be investigated.
The controversial decision was undertaken by the Police Service Commission (PSC) following consultation with the Minister of Internal Affairs, Andrew Napuat as they instructed the senior officers to go on forced leave following several allegations against them.
The officers in question did not demand the leave, thus PSC chairman Willie Vira explained that his office had issued the instruction of forced leave so the officers could vacate their offices and allow the investigation to proceed.
Mr Vira stated that one of the main reasons instigating the investigation was due to an article published by Daily Post newspaper concerning two of the named senior officers.
Vira said there are two parties amongst the superiors and each party had lodged complaints against each other. This indicates division among them.
The investigation team which was tasked to do the investigations will produce recommendations that could provide solutions to the divisions in the VPF hierarchy. The private investigation team comprised of two former force members and the third person is an individual with legal background.
The private investigators were appointed by Minister Andrew Napuat.
The letters instructing the forced leave were issued on November 8, but came into effect as of Monday this week. According to Vira, the officers had been committed to important matters and that did not permit an effective action on the initial date of the letters.
The Commission has also appointed five officers to oversee the affairs of the Force in the absence of those who are on forced leave. Superintendent Jean-Yves Kali is Acting Police Commissioner; Superintendent Alan Bani occupies the Southern Command position, while Sam Samsen is in charge of the Northern Command. The Acting Commander Vanuatu Mobile Force (VMF) is Major Nicholson Ben and Mrs. Nettie Vuti is the Acting Director of Corporate Services Unit.
“The Commission is confident in these officers as they have a wealth of experience in VPF operations,” the chairman stressed.
He added Operation Noel will not be affected despite the change in leadership. The officers who were appointed on acting capacities also assured the Minister, the Commission and the public at large that the Operation Noel will be conducted as normal.
Minister Napuat met with the officers and the Commission on Tuesday this week and he urged them to ensure that police work continue as normal to ensure law and order is maintained. He also assured them of the government’s continuous support.
The senior police officers will continue to receive full salaries while on forced leave.