A Tongan law firm has written to Police Commissioner Steven Caldwell claiming he has not acted fairly over charges and suspensions of 17 police officers.
The firm says only five of the officers have been suspended.
The letter, signed by Siosifa T. Tu’utafaiva, has been copied to the Minister of Police.
“We do not understand the reasons for suspending those five police officers and not the others,” Tu’utafaiva wrote.
“Some of the officers who are not suspended face serious allegations, and we are aware of the senior police officers who face serious criminal allegations but they are not suspended.”
Tu’utafaiva asked for the Commissioner to reconsider the case of Sergeant Malia Fanua, who he said had been suspended without pay.
Sgt Fanua had not been paid for three months.
He said officers who were facing criminal charges were still paid their salaries and not suspended from duty.
Tu’utafaiva, a former Minister of Police, said because no criminal proceedings had been commenced against Sgt Fanua, the decision to suspend her should be considered null and void.
“It may be not appropriate for you to comment on other cases currently under the disciplinary process, but those cases show that the exercise of your discretionary power to suspend police officers from duties is not based on clear and fair grounds,” he said.
Police Commissioner Caldwell has not responded to allegations about his handling of police discipline and corruption because he is restricted in what he can say publicly.
As Kaniva News reported earlier, Minister of Police, Hon. Mateni Tapueluelu, has openly sided with a number of officers protesting about their treatment.
Hon. Tapueluelu said the government told New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern the government did not want the Police Commissioner’s contract extended.
The Police Commissioner’s position is largely funded by New Zealand.
Last month a Police spokesman said officers had been suspended for “very good reasons.”
“The Commissioner is confined by what he can say publicly on individual criminal and disciplinary cases currently under investigation,” the spokesperson said.
Tonga’s police force has a troubled history of corruption and abuse.
It also has a history of New Zealand police officers working in Tonga being faced with entrenched opposition from police opposed to attempts to clean up the force.
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