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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Solomons Foreign Affairs Minister clarifies why Shane Castles is declared as "undesirable immigrant"

The Solomon Islands Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration, Patterson Oti has today revealed the reasons why the government declared Police Commissioner Shane Castles an undesirable immigrant.

In a press conference this morning, Hon Oti also refuted claims by Shane Castles arising from the Solomon government’s decision to declare him an undesirable immigrant.

Hon Oti said reported statements by Mr. Castles that he still intends to serve out 20 months of his contract as Police Commissioner were grossly inaccurate on two counts.

“Firstly, Mr. Castles was not under any formal contract with the Solomon Islands government. He was appointed to the position on secondment from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) under an exchange of letters between former Australian High Commissioner, Patrick Cole and the then Solomon Islands Minister of Police. Secondly, in any event, his appointment was only for a period of two years effective from April, 2005. His time would have been up in early April this year, which is less than four months away,” the Minister said.

Hon Oti also revealed that the current Solomon Islands government had for some time held serious reservations and concerns over the terms of Mr. Castle’s appointment; in particular, the indemnity clauses under which he served.

“There is no precedent for such an arrangement where a Police Commissioner is exempted from constitutional and legal obligations which apply to every other citizen of the Solomon Islands, regardless of their position. Mr. Castles was effectively indemnified from any court action or even from appearing before a properly convened tribunal. In other words, the terms of his employment placed him above the constitutional laws of this country and we were not prepared to condone that situation," added Oti.

“We find it somewhat ironic that Mr. Castles now wants to rely on the provisions of our constitution to counter our declaration. Is this the same constitution he was not subjected to? This places a whole new dimension to the old saying of having your cake and eating it too,” Mr. Oti said

The Minister said he also wished to correct media reports that the Solomon Islands government had instigated the declaration against Mr. Castles over his handling of the so-called Julian Moti affair.

“This could not be further from the truth. The declaration had nothing to do with anything other than the constitutional and legal obligations of every resident of the Solomon Islands and what we believe to be Mr. Castle’s abuse of powers. We made this decision after long deliberations based on the Police Commissioner’s conduct in several instances, including his role in the 2006 Honiara riots and the well-publicised raiding of the Prime Minister’s office last year, to name just a few examples.

“What other country, including Australia, would tolerate a senior police officer bashing down the door of the Prime Minister in his absence and not having to even justify his actions or be accountable for them?” the Minister said.

Source: GCU

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