By ANDREW FANASIA
POLICE have again come under public attack and ridicule after one of its officers allegedly assaulted a youth who was taking photos of officers dismantling betel nut stalls outside the Town Ground Plaza in Honiara, Friday.
Maverick Seda claimed he was man-handled by members of the Police Response Team (PRT) and Honiara City Council law enforcers for taking photos while the officers dismantled and chase away vendors at Town Ground.
“I was not the only one taking photos. Others at the scene were doing it too,” Seda told the Solomon Star.
“Then this particular officer approached me and stated that the country’s laws prohibited people from taking photos of any police officer,” he added.
“I asked the officer to explain which law prohibits people from taking photos in public or taking photos of police officers.
“Instead the officer angrily grabbed me and threw me inside a police land cruiser.
“The officer then slapped me using his knuckle in the face. He and three female colleagues then continued harassing me inside the vehicle.
“I knew my mouth was bleeding but I just kept quiet as they repeatedly told me that Solomon Islands laws don’t allow people to take photos of any police officer,” Seda said.
Seda’s photo was uploaded on Facebook following the incident, attracting widespread criticisms and attacks on the reputation of the RSIPF.
This latest police incident comes at the back of Monday’s shooting of an innocent man who was mistaken for an escaped prisoner.
Police fired rubber bullets at the man after he ran away from the officers out of fear in the Alligator Creek area of east Honiara at around 9pm.
The man sustained injuries to his hand, finger and back.
Police were heavily criticised for their action.
According to Seda, during yesterday’s incident, the officer also grabbed his mobile phone and deleted all the photos he took.
“They then let me out of the vehicle with a bleeding mouth,” he said.
Bystanders who witnessed the incident told the Solomon Star that the officer also apprehended a Chinese man but later released him after he told the officer that he was a manager in one of the take-away shops at Town Ground.
A youth advocate who asked not to be named said the incident does not speak well of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.
“It is a public place and people witnessed it so this police action has shaken the foundation of trust and community working together with the police,” the youth leader said.
He further added that when it comes to youth they should stop assuming that all youths are trouble-makers.
Members of the public called on the police management to investigate the incident.
The Police Media Unit said they will issue a statement later in response to the accusation.
Last September, former Police Commissioner Matthew Varley was forced to apologise to a group of youths after police confiscated their mobile phones and deleted their photos.
Young Seda was also part of the group.
The youths were staging a peaceful roadside protest outside the Honiara Airport terminal building against the government’s decision to switch ties from Taiwan to China.
When police approached them, they used their mobile phones to take photos of the officers.
Police then summoned them to the Henderson Police Station, ordered them to surrender their phones and deleted the photos they took.
Varley after the incident apologised to the youth and admitted the action his officers took to delete photos from the youths’ mobile phones was wrong.
The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) is currently being administered by acting Police Commissioner Mostyn Mangau, after Matthew Varley’s contract with the force ended last year.