Varley apologises to youths over unfair police action
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN
POLICE Commissioner Matthew Varley has apologised to the youths whose mobile phones police seized and deleted footage from them.
The incident occurred when the youths staged a silent protest at the Honiara International Airport last week over the China switch.
“I like to on behalf of the organisation apologise to those youths who were involved in that incident for that occurrence,” Varley said.
“It is certainly not my intention that the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) should stand for any suppression of free speech,” he added.
“That is not what we stand for but on this occasion we fell short of that mark.”
Varley said the way which the situation carried out probably caused a degree of misunderstanding of police intention which he regretted it.
“I am sorry to the group they if they felt that they were unfairly dealt with by police.”
Varley also acknowledged the criticism of how the officers handled the youths in terms of their mobile phones to which he said he is sorry that had happened.
“It is pretty clear to me that I agree that there was some intervention of the police in terms of the deletion of the mobile phone footage.
“That should not have happened, I’m sorry that it did,” he added.
Varley further added that the officers he believed were acting in a situation where they felt some degree of confrontation where the cameras were focused on them.
He said he had worked with the Provincial Police Commander (PPC) of Guadalcanal to remind the officers of their responsibilities and to educate them on some of the issues.
Varley clarified that last Friday his officers at Henderson were involved in a meeting with a group of youths who were protesting at the Honiara International Airport at Henderson.
“…..and I have received a briefing from the Provincial Police Commander of Guadalcanal and inspector in charge that day.”
The police chief said his officers did ask the youths and took them to the Henderson Police Station to discuss the issue of the protest about the fact they should have a permit for that particular incident.
He stressed that at this point in time there is no suggestion that those youths were involved in any criminal activity or any potential breach of the peace.
“But given the sensitivity of the environment, my officers made the decision to take them to the station to have that discussion and dialogue.
“They were not under arrest I am told, they were warned and released,” he told reporters.
He said he believed his officer’s actions were intentioned and that they are also mindful they are doing their best to keep a close watches for security in their local community which they have been doing for days.
Varley said he does not think the officers are trying intentionally to intimidate people and that it is unfortunate the incident play out this way.
“I’d like an opportunity to meet with the youths that were involved in that incident to have some dialogue about what happened and I am willing to listen to their concerns,” he said.
Varley also added that there is no police power that he is aware of that use police authority to delete someone’s camera footage.
He said it was a mistake and should not have happened and that is officers are now educated on that issue.
“They were already counselled by the PPC at Henderson and I am satisfied with the actions taken, he said.
“But I don’t think we should look to draw big conclusion out of that.”
He said it was not any premeditated campaign where they are trying to suppress people’s right but is just an overreach.
Earlier, Opposition leader Mathew Wale urged Varley to investigate the way in which his officers dealt with the group of youths.