HONIARA magistrate’s court will deliver its sentence on the nine Bougainville men who have been convicted of illegally staying in the country without entry visas.
A local man who harboured the nine men illegally in the Shortland Islands, Western Province will also be sentenced along with the nine next week.
This was after the mitigating and sentencing submissions were orally presented at the court yesterday by the defence and the prosecution.
The Bougainvilleans, Sylester Motoqo, Vincent Ma’ako, Justin Moiru, Eddie Posena, Joe Nupa, Nigel Tonnaku, Thomas Konnou, Dominic Samo, Tom Ruben have all pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful presence in Solomon Isalands.
John Nauva from Shortland Islands has pleaded guilty to a charge of harbouring unlawful non-citizens.
The nine Bougainvilleans were working as security officers for a logging camp in the Shortland Islands between 4th to 24th September 2015.
During that period, they were illegally harboured by Navua from the Short land Island.
Public Prosecutor Ishmael Kekou submitted that the nine Bougainville men were not supposed to be tried in the Magistrate’s Court.
He said the offences before the court does not criminalised the Act but is under the Immigration Act.
“There is no penalty for the offence if you look at the Penal Code (PC).”
Mr Kekou said the case is normally dealt with by the Director of Immigration or unless the Director applied to the court for the accused to pay fine or if they cannot pay the fine.
He said this is a special kind of case and not normal case before the court.
A memo from the Director of Immigration was attached with the submissions prosecution tendered to the court in relation to the amount of fine the men should pay.
In relation to the case of the local accused, Mr Kekou said the court should consider that Nauva had breached the law knowing the men were foreigners, yet employed them to work as security officers.
Mr Kekou said he tried to find case authorities as precedence to guide the court with the sentencing but could not find any case to support this as this case is new.
He therefore relies on the Statutory Penalty which is an imprisonment of six months or a fine not exceeding $10,000 or both.
Private Lawyer Makario Tagini argued that his clients were placed in custody for over six months already for an offense that should appropriately be dealt with by the Immigration Department.
“As such when carrying out duty with the law, it is clear indication where people are put into custody without any proper basis within our laws,”
He said asked the court to consider his clients’ early guilty pleas, and that they have no previous convictions, and they are remorseful for their actions.
Mr Tagini also brought to the court’s attention a bilateral agreement between Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea Governments which he said was signed in 2008.
“That treaty of the two countries allows citizens from both countries from the border to move freely for cultural purposes.”
He asked the court to take note of that order which he said is the reason why the nine accused came freely to Solomon Islands to seek employment.
Mr Tagini also reminded the court that the offences committed by the nine Bougainvilleans does not attract custodial sentence except that of Nauva’s.
He said the nine Bougainvilleans should only pay fines imposed by the Director of Immigration and released immediately.
“The nine Bougainvilleans were related to Nauva whose grandfather is from Bougainville.
“Nauva invited them to come and work at the logging operation to get something for their families,”
“It is his family obligation.”
He added that Nauva did not bring the nine Bougainvilleans directly from Bougainville as they were already working at other camps on Shortland Islands.
“It would be serious if he had brought them from Bougainville directly.”
Mr Tagini further added that prior to that, three Bougainville boats arrived at the camps with guns and ransacked the camps there which is why Nauva called on his relatives to come and stay as securities to prevent further attacks.
He also submitted that a fine is relevant in Nauva’s case and not an imprisonment term.
In response to that prosecutor, Mr Kekou argued that the accused were not remanded in custody as accused men but as detainees because the Immigration does not have the proper facility to detain them in Gizo.
The matter was transferred from Gizo, Western Province to Honiara to be dealt with here.
Mr Kekou also pointed out that the bilateral agreement between the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea Governments is intended for exchanges in movement of people of the two nations for cultural purposes only and not for employment..
He said all the nine accused men have admitted to illegally residing in the country while the local man admitted to illegally harbouring them.
The nine Bougainvilleans,have pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful presence in the country.
John Nauva from the Shortland Islands has pleaded guilty to a charge of unlawfully harbouring non-citizens.
They were all charged contrary to section 28 (1) of the Immigration Act, No.3 of 2012.
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN