PM warns some officers could undermine Police Commissioner as Tonga battles crime

    Tongan Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pōhiva says Police Commissioner Stephen Caldwell is striving to do his job honestly, but warned that his efforts could be undermined by the actions of some Tongan Police officers.

    Hon. Pōhiva said there were high profile criminal cases the Force struggled to deal with and the commissioner’s post was of vital importance in handling such investigations.

    He said Tonga was facing a major problem with drugs being trafficked through the kingdom to Asia and Australia.

    The Prime Minister said allegations had also been made that the previous government had continued selling Tongan Diplomatic passports.

    Hon Pōhiva said the government was inclined (“hehema”) to appoint a palagi to head the Tongan Police force because they believed he would be more independent and honest with the job.

    “There is a belief the palagi (commissioner) is more honest than a Tongan (commissioner),” Hon. Pōhiva said in Tongan.

    “The post is important, fragile and it requires a person who is independent to investigate any crimes, especially in cases where the people at the top level such as the nobility and us (leaders) are investigated,” he said.

    But there was a problem because the palagi had to rely on the Tongan Police officers, Hon Pohiva said. He could not do the job by himself.

    “If he relies on the Tongan officers and they do not do the work properly and lie to the palagi that would cause some problems”, Hon. Pōhiva said.

    Passport and drugs

    Hon. Pōhiva said drugs and the sale of the Tongan passport were huge problems for the government.

    He said he thought the court case in which he took the government to court 30 years ago for illegally selling Tongan passports to Asians had ended the sale, but it had been alleged that the previous governments continued selling them.

    Hon. Pōhiva said he often met with the Police Commissioner about matters related to the status of the current passport investigation.

    Hon. Pōhiva said one of the biggest problems his government was facing was drug abuse.

    He said people had called on the government to do something as they had found it difficult to deal with problems emanated from drugs abuse.

    “Too many incidents occurred,” he said.

    He said the current situation was not easy to handle and he believed Tonga was one of the small nations used by drug dealers as a channel for trafficking drugs.

    He said the drugs came from South America through Tonga to Asia and Australia.

    “What is happening in our small nation is so dangerous”, Hon Pohiva said.

    He said he believed a number of recent fatalities in Tonga had involved drugs.

    He said he was referring to those incidents to show how his government struggled in searching for ways to reduce the problem.

    Hon. Pohiva said it would be worse if some inside the government were involved with drug dealings and abuse.

    Support

    Stephen Caldwell took up the position of Police Commissioner in 2015 after 17 years as an Area Commander in New Zealand and postings in the Solomon Islands, East Timor and Bougainville.

    The level of support expressed for Caldwell by the Prime Minister is in direct contrast with the way Caldwell’s two predecessors, Grant O’Fee and Chris Kelly were treated.

    Both were experienced New Zealand policemen and it is believed that both were pushed out of their jobs for trying to reform a police force with a reputation for corruption and brutality.

    However, Hon. Pohiva said there was “a problem” with O’Fee, but did not elaborate

    Kaniva News reported in 2014 that O’Fee was leaving his post eight months before the end of his contract. It is understood he resigned.

    The main points

    • Tongan Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pōhiva says Police Commissioner Stephen Caldwell is striving to do his job honestly, but warned that his efforts could be undermined by the actions of some Tongan Police officers.
    • Pōhiva said there were high profile criminal cases the Force struggled to deal with and the commissioner’s post was of vital importance in handling such investigations.
    • He said Tonga was facing a major problem with drugs being trafficked through the kingdom to Asia and Australia.
    • The Prime Minister said allegations had also been made that the previous government had continued selling Tongan Diplomatic passports.

    For more information

    Tonga’s police commissioner reinforces basics

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