THE Solomon Star and Island Sun newspapers on 25th March 2015 carried interesting news items about the above matter.
In those items, Wilson Rano boasted about the withdrawal of charges against him and his clients Nilton Chite and Rodney Hiva at the Central Magistrate court and claimed that the charges were acquitted because Ataban Tahu and Police have abused the judicial process.
He was also quoted as saying that one has to go through court records to see how the process was abused.
These is a good call and for the benefit of your readers and the general public, please allow me to reveal what I got after going through court records and other information.
Wilson Rano and his clients Rodney Hive and Nilton Chite were charged in relation to the forging of the decision of Marovo Council of Chiefs (MCC) made on 12th October 2010.
This MCC decision was made in respect of the dispute between Rodney Hiva and Ataban Tahu.
I was the Secretary to the MCC at that time and the one who prepared the original Chiefs decision that was allegedly forged and replicated by the trio for their own advantage.
The truth about it is that the dispute between Ataban Tahu and Rodney Hiva was referred to the MCC by Ataban Tahu in September 2010.
It was then scheduled and eventually held at Seghe station on 12th October 2010. Both parties attended the hearing and a decision was made in favour of Ataban Tahu.
Instead of appealing the MCC decision to the Local Court as required by provisions of the local Court’ Act, the trio opted to file an application for judicial review in the High Court.
This triggered a legal battle that went through the High Court and Court of Appeal in 2010 and 2012.
During this battle, the learned judges made some important statements which I would like to highlight here and let your readers decide as to where and how the judicial process was abused and by who.
The first attempt to nullify the MCC decision was the application for judicial review which was registered in the High Court as HCC 367 of 2010.
The application was filed by none other than Wilson Rano on behalf of his clients Rodney Hive and Nilton Chite.
I was named as the first Respondent representing the MCC and Ataban Tahu was one of the other Respondents.
In my response to the claim against me and other members of MCC, I made a sworn statement and exhibited a copy of MCC decision which was the subject of the application.
A copy of my statement was properly served on Rodney Hiva and Nilton Chite through their lawyer Wilson Rano.
At the end of the case, Judge Francis Mwanesalua refused the application for judicial review and gave reasons for his refusal.
Aggrieved by the High Court decision, Wilson Rano filed their second attempt in the Court of Appeal and was registered as CA 1 of 2011.
The assertion advanced by Wilson Rano in this appeal was that the learned High Court Judge in HCC 367/2010 had made an error.
The Court of Appeal identified the issue by stating and I quote:
“At the appeal lies an issue whether the Choe Faction can rely on the decision of the Western Pacific CLAC in November 2006 that their members were entitled to represent the ‘Choe’ customary land owners.
“Or whether the faction can look to a more recent decision of the Marovo CC in 2010 that the lands in question were not and never had been “Choe” customary Lands.
“In one form or another, this has been the subject of dispute 17 sets of proceedings over half a century or more.” End of quote.
Unless there is prove to the contrary, choe faction refers to Rodney Hiva and Nilton Chite while JPE faction refers to Ataban Tahu and other respondents.
The decision of the Marovo CC in 2010 refers to the one made on 12th October 2010.
In dismissing the appeal, the Court of Appeal made another important statement and I quote: “the difficulty for the series of propositions by which Mr Rano reached his concluding submission that the ownership and boundaries of the disputed customary lands had been settled in favour of the Choe faction by the western CLAC’s determination in November 2006 is that they are built on sand.” End of quote.
This is obviously the bullet that should have killed the case.
However, knowing very well that they have reached the roof of our judicial system, Wilson Rano and his clients returned to the appeal process they abandoned in 2010 and actually filed an appeal against our decision in 2012.
How and why this appeal was allowed to be filed out of time without proper application for grant is another interesting fact that can only be clarified by the local court office in Gizo where the appeal was filed some two years later after the MCC made the decision.
It was in this local court appeal that the controversial document was born.
This controversial document was evidently created by Wilson Rano.
Unfortunately, this document is obviously not the document they claimed to have represented.
There are clear anomalies and discrepancies that make this document falls within the definition of false and misleading document.
First, the document was created with a computer program.
Secondly, the document is dated 23rd September 2010. Thirdly, the document appears to have signed by two members of the MCC panel.
Finally, an essential part of the original document was omitted. This essential part is the summary of statement for plaintiff Ataban Tahu.
The reason for such omission is known only to Wilson Rano and his clients but even if a reason is provided, that will never provide an answer to the question of why create another document when you already have a copy of the original MCC decision?
Hypothetically, creating a new document in the presence of a copy of the original proves the intension to defraud and to mislead the courts as shown in the subsequent events.
On 14th July 2014, a local court hearing was held at Noro Town in respect of the appeal filed out of time by Rodney Hiva and his supporter Nilton Chite.
I was asked to give evidence and to clarify the chiefs’ decision as required by the local courts Act.
At the hearing, I found that the document filed by Rodney Hiva and Nilton Chite was not the original or a copy of the decision of the MCC in the 2010.
It was in fact the controversial document that I already described as a forged document.
I told the court that I have nothing to do with the document exhibited and appealed against by Rodney Hiva and his supporters because it is not the decision of the MCC as claim.
In spite of such evidence, the local court went on to make a decision in favour of Rodney Hiva.
One of the witnesses who gave evidences in support of Rodney Hiva during the local court hearing was a man with the surname “Talasasa”. Whether this person is related to the director of public prosecution (DPP) or not is what the public needs to be informed of.
If it is true that this witness is related to the DPP then something fishy is going on and I will let your readers decide whether to accept that the decision to withdraw the charges against Wilson Rano and his clients is in the best interest of justice or something else.
Going right to the conducts of Mr Rano, it seems that he has no respect at all for the laws of the country and it is evident in court records which he referred to in his one sided interview published by the Solomon Star.
In his interview, he deluded your readers and the public into believing that Ataban Tahu and police have abused the judicial process. I found the opposite.
If this is the same Rano who was accused by late Presley watts of instructing RIMA limited to remove its machineries in defiance of a consent court order which he himself (Rano) drafted and signed by other lawyers in civil claim No. 12 of 2012 then it clarifies a point.
Again, if this is the same Rano who was accused by Mrs N.Tongarutu and accepted by the high court of acting in conflict of interest in civil case No. 399 of 2012 then point has a weight.
Furthermore, this is the same Rano who was accused in a previous Solomon Star issue by Michael Salini of defying another high court order issued against him and his clients in Ngella, then it doesn’t surprised me.
Going left to the offence, changing of forging a Chiefs’ decision that was made pursuant to the provisions of the local Courts Act is an offence well known to the DPP.
He displayed his knowledge of such offence when he prosecuted Late Chief Letipiko Balesi in 2005 and later Chris Mamu in 2010. These two were charged in relation to forging of similar documents.
Despite the fact that they were paraphrasing some existed documents the DPP decided to proceed with the charges and they were convicted in court.
That knowledge and decision have completely erased from the DPP’s memory when the case against Wilson Rano and his clients dropped on his table.
Coming back to his decision to withdraw the charges against the trio, the implication in that decision is that any chiefs’ decision in general is not a legal document and can be tempered with and paraphrased by lawyers to suit their clients’ preference even if the lawyer failed to satisfy the High Court and Court of Appeal that there is an error in the Chiefs’ decision.
This is threatening the past and future decisions of Council of Chiefs and if responsible officers and authorities continue to tolerate such practices without prosecution then the former High Court Judge Mr Pallaras had made point when he suggested in his speech that Solomon Islands needs a “full time Director of Public Prosecution”.
By JOHN OTI MAEKERA