Dear Editor – I would be grateful if this letter could be published in your paper’s letters to the editor column as a matter of public interest.
In early December 2014 soon after the National General Elections in November of that year, I reported a case to the police through the office of the Police Commissioner in which I alleged corrupt practices in the West Kwaio election in which Hon. Pastor Peter Tom was elected.
In actual fact, the report was compiled following a number of meetings held at places within the constituency days after the election in which there was general consensus that a report of the offences allegedly committed during the election be referred to the court or the police.
Additionally, and importantly I had the advice of my lawyer who advised that the allegations were of a criminal nature and ought to be investigated by the police.
In sending the report I did include in it, as well as in a media statement which I made in relation to matter that I made the complaint on behalf the candidates who lost in the election and the vast majority of voters who by voting for the losing candidates have in effect voted against the Hon. Pastor, so to speak.
Although I had no official acknowledgement from the Commissioner as to his receipt of the report, I was sure it safely got to him and had sent it to the National Criminal Investigation Department (NCID) with instructions to have the report investigated.
NCID by the way is the RSIPF department responsible for investigating corruption as well as high profile cases including cases involving members of parliament nowadays, I was told.
However, if the report we made needs to be explained again, it was as reported, not necessarily about Hon. Tom winning the election on the numbers he got in order to win the election; nor was it intended that it should reach a point in the investigation where it would be clear Hon. Tom should have lost the election.
Rather, it was simply about allegations that election related criminal offences have been committed at the election which may have material influence on the voter’s rights and freedom to vote.
And I believed that the police were clear in their minds and not confused as to what the complaint was about.
However, in any event, whenever the police had doubts or were unfamiliar with the law in a way that they needed advice, they have the advice of the Attorney General and the Director Public Prosecutions always available to them.
After about three months of filing the report, I was so much surprised that not even a single action was known to have been taken by the police on the report. The information we provided to the police had clear leads, and in terms of any travel expenses, West Kwaio is not too remote with much less expensive travel costs to get there. So if the police did have a legitimate problem that prevented them from dealing with the case quickly from the start, it certainly was not one of finance.
In my initial attempt to check on the position of the report I called the director of the NCID on his mobile phone which was provided to me. He then told me that he remembered sending the file with instructions from the Commissioner to the corruption section of the office some weeks back to commence the investigation.
He however, did not seem keen on asking his officers about the case; instead he referred me to one of his junior officers who further referred me to two more officers whom he said would be in a better position to give me an update on the investigation.
On contacting one of the two officers, he said he had not seen the file anywhere in the office at any time; he promised to check with his colleagues and come back to me which he never did, although he had my contact number. The other officer never answered his phone for days.
I wasted no time in sending a letter to the Commissioner reporting what had transpired during my enquiries with the director of the NCID and his officers regarding the case, following which I was told the Commissioner did summon the director to his office and ordered that the case file be located and produced on his desk within the next twenty four hours.
The director did produce the file at around 4.30 pm the next day( after approximately two days ) and explained to the Commissioner and soon afterwards to me that it was found lying on the desk of some office clerk who had gone on leave.
Both the Commissioner and the director did call me individually and informed me of the relocation of the file and also assured me the investigation would resume immediately.
The Commissioner particularly apologised for the delay in the investigation, while the director assured me he would be directly supervising the investigation from then on.
About a week later the same director told me, his officers were waiting for funds from treasury to travel to West Kwaio for the investigation.
However, on checking again weeks later I was told the director has moved to another unit, and was replaced by another director whom I turned to in an attempt get an update on the case. He did not tell me what was happening to the investigation, except that he had just passed the file to the corruption team.
Understandably, in RSIPF, investigation files do travel between case officers and their senior officers on routine administration or when advise was needed, but I did not quite understand what was happening, and I had to tell the officer of my utter disappointment and gave him a piece of my mind.
Nevertheless, he told me he would come back later in the day to give a clearer update, which he never did right up to this day. Anyway, at least I knew he had seen the file and had something to do with it at some point.
Then there has been a long break during which not even a shred of information came through on the case, until about two weeks ago when I decided to make a final check in order to decide if it was going to be necessary to take another step in the matter.
I found there was yet another new director, the third director in a string of NCID directors I had encountered in pursuing the position of the investigation into the case. In fact I know all three directors quite well, having worked with them during my time in the police. In fact they were three of the good well educated officers from their generation of young junior officers at that time remaining in RSIPF and now holding senior ranks I believed they truly deserved.
The incumbent director seemed to co-operate well and was rather close on recognising me on the phone although I could sense a kind of apprehensiveness in the way he spoke. He basically told me he had neither seen, nor known such a report being investigated by the office.
I felt he was not in a position to give any more beyond what he was able to give me; however I believed what he said in his brief explanation and took it as sufficient for my own purposes.
So it has been almost two years since the case was reported without any slightest information coming from the police on the investigation, and having already devoted much time and effort to direct contacts with the Commissioner and his officers in pursuing the position of the investigation, I have decided that using the media to inform the public and getting the Commissioner to account for the investigation on behalf his officers would be the most appropriate thing to do under these circumstances.
It is therefore my plea to the Commissioner of Police that in the interest of the public, especially the interested communities in West Kwaio who are much frustrated waiting on an outcome in the case for a very long time, he responds and provides an account in the media as to the position of the investigation into the report since we last spoke about it more than a year ago.
I hope I am not being unfair to the Commissioner by asking him to account publicly in this matter, as I trust he appreciates that accountability is an essential duty that comes with his responsibilities as the Commissioner of Police, and whenever it is due, members of the public do have the right to demand it of him.
Nevertheless, this may also provide him with an opportunity to see how he remains posted and vigilant in relation to the conduct and work performance of his officers, as who knows, there may be other serious cases that are in the hands of police investigators which have been long outstanding that sooner or later might attract similar calls on the Commissioner to account.
I also hope that by using the media to inform the public on the matter it would help discard people’s feelings or suspicion that I may have acted inappropriately in the way the investigation has come to an unexplainable stop.
And should it become necessary and appropriate for me to disclose the names of the police officers I have referred to here to an investigating authority, I shall certainly do so.
By Joe Baetolingia