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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Men get jail terms for manslaughter

[Submitted by Moffat Mamu on 28 March, 2006(Solomon Star)]

Land Dispute is one of the issues that hinders new development in North Malita. TARD supports the "Family Tree" idealogy because it has a great potential for minimising land disputes whilst promoting new investments into the To'abaita region.

Four men accused of causing the death of an elderly man in North Malaita six years ago pleaded guilty to manslaughter at the High Court yesterday. Justice John Brown sentenced the four men according to their degrees of involvement in the incident.
The men pleaded guilty to the unlawful killing of Augustine Okai, an elderly man of Mana’abu village, near Malu’u, North Malaita.

They also pleaded guilty to the unlawful assault occasioning actual bodily harm to two other elders taken from the village on the 31 January, 2001. The oldest accused, 55-year old Andrew Tonowane was sentenced to a total of three years and five months for manslaughter and assault. Two other accused men Hudson Saeni and Olson Seda were sentenced to a total of three years and nine months each for their guilty pleas. The fourth accused, Patteson Saeni who led the group during that time, received a total of four years and four months for manslaughter and assault.

The four men had served most of those jail sentences since 2003 when they were arrested and remanded in custody after the arrival of RAMSI. The court heard that the killing of the victim and the assaults on the survivors apparently sprang from a suggested land dispute between two North Malaita clans over a proposed airport project. The accused men were armed during that time but no arm was used in the killing of Mr Okai. However, the court heard that the victim was beaten to death when he was taken by the men. Two others survived the beatings and were later treated at the Malu’u health center soon after.

The accused men had also held a traditional reconciliation ceremony with the families of the victim and a compensation of 10 shell money and goods were paid to the family of Mr Okai. The ceremony was held in the presence of chiefs, church leaders, peace monitors and family members of the warring parties. The reconciliation ceremony is one of the mitigating factors raised by the defence when asking the court for lesser sentences on the accused men.

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