Two top officials in Tonga Ministry of Police once again come under fire after making an appearance in international media reporting this week for “wiping criminal records”.
This time they are at the centre of a number of allegations that ranges from misuse of power to driving offences as well as an accusation of the ministry for a deliberate cover up in the way how they handle the complaints filed against the two officers.
Tongan local newspaper reported that a police officer has lodged a complaint against one of the deputy commissioners for filling up of his private used vehicle in the ministry’s petrol station in which he supposed not to as the petrol station is for the ministry’s vehicles only.
This deputy commissioner was not available for comment when contacted by the paper.
According to a copy of his complaint obtained by the newspaper, the complainant also accused the other deputy commissioner for his involvement in a series of police vehicle accidents where on one occasion he was the driver in an alleged hit and run case and in a separate accident the vehicle was damaged costing the ministry $1,000 for the maintenance.
The complainant believed that the authority is putting its weight behind his complaint because it is a matter related to two of the top officers.
“Does the law equally apply to everyone in the police force or it just for those at lower ranks,” is what the complainant questioned referring to a number of cases that involved police officers at lower level and they were made accountable to what they did including some have been dismissed and some were sent to jail.
The deputy did not deny the complaint against him and what he was accused of but said that he had been cleared off after his cases have been referred to the Solicitor General.
He also believed that the complaint launched against him was malicious.
The two deputies indictment emerged in the midst of another case they reportedly got involved with where the Immigration New Zealand have identified 33 people who were given a clean criminal police record for their visa application to travel to New Zealand when it was known their records did not.
Tongan media report states that there were 47 criminal records that have been wiped out under the direction of one of the alleged deputies starting from 2005 continuously till 2010.
The convictions wiped out were said to include drinking offences, beating, robbery, break-in up to man slaughter.
Liable for deportation:
It is not clear whether the Immigration New Zealand has already obtained the names of those 33 convicted Tongans said to have already been in New Zealand or not but Alan Barry, the Immigration New Zealand (INZ) Pacific regional manager said that they are, “working with the Tongan authorities to get the details of any Tongans who might have come to New Zealand as a result of cleansed police records.”
It is an obligation of any applicant who wishes to come to New Zealand to declare whether he has, “ever been convicted of any offence(s) under immigration law” or not.
Mr Barry said that, “Any individual who is found to have entered New Zealand illegally by not declaring their criminal convictions or by providing misleading information to immigration officer will be liable for deportation and could face a lengthy ban from ever returning.”
This includes “INZ placing alerts on its immigration systems for any Tongan national who was in New Zealand as a result of having their record wiped inappropriately”.
Burglary conviction revealed:
In December 2012 a Tongan man by the name Maketi Manu (46) was sent to prison after being found guilty of five charges of burglary and two assaults at a trial in Blenheim, Marlborough.
It was declared in the judgement statement that Manu, “has no burglary convictions in New Zealand, but many in Tonga. A list of convictions has been produced. The modus operandi of his Tongan offences is said to be similar.”
The statement also said that, “He deposes that his “only previous conviction” is for breach of a liquor ban, evidently having forgotten his Tongan convictions.”
The court’s declaration of Manu’s previous convictions in Tonga suggested that he might have either entered New Zealand illegally or he came on a visa that his criminal record submitted to support his application may have been wiped out by police.
Tonga Commissioner of Police Grant O’Fee told media that, “the practice was put in place by an unwritten policy approved by the Minister of Police at the time, who had since passed away.
“This was a common process where people approached the police for their letter from the police record. Senior police officers had given their authorizations and the subsequent letter was written by someone at the lower level. That is how the system worked, there was no suggestion of forgery as the officers signed them with their own signatures and there were no efforts to cover up what they had done.”
In time of New Zealand Police Commissioner Chris Kelly in Tonga this unwritten policy was discontinued and Commissioner O’Fee said that he, “reiterated that that is no longer the Tonga Police policy and we do not do that.”
The commissioner is still trying to figure out why this former Minister of Police approved such policy allowing criminal record to be faked
“It was not just bureaucratic oversight or error in clerical work.”
An investigation is underway led by Solicitor General Aminiasi Kefu and OʻFee said that, “”I am moving very cautiously in a very measured way on this….. I am anxious to try have a measured response to this.”
One of the accused deputy commissioners told the Tongan paper that they have been working on people’s criminal record according to the ministry’s policy and no criminal activities involved.
He also said that the policy for wiping out of criminal record was already in place before he started working in the ministry.
Featured image: TVNZ