8 Aug 2002

Vanuatu police say the country is not going the way of Solomon Islands

10:28 am on 8 August 2002

Vanuatu's Deputy Police Commissioner, Holly Simon, went public yesterday to assure people that his officers had not staged a coup in arresting 15 officials including the new Police Commissioner.

The 15, who also included the Attorney General, were charged with criminal conspiracy in the appointment of Mael Apisai as Commissioner.

Mr Simon, who was a contender for the Commissioner's job and initiated the arrests, told a gathering of around five hundred people outside the central police station in Port Vila, that the action was not a military coup.

Len Garae has more.

"Mr Holly Simon said to all those present, to go home and tell the relatives, their friends, and spread the word, that there is no reason to be afraid that there is instability in the country, - that there is none, that there is no military coup as rumoured, nor is there going to be one. That this country is not going to be another one to fall to the same situation like in the Solomon Islands and other Pacific Island countries."

Len Garae also says police have demanded that the Prime Minister apologise for calling the arrests illegal.

However the Prime Minister's spokesman, Daniel Bangtor, suggests that is unlikely.

up to now the Prime Minister has not indicated any intention to apologize ...the case is before the court and I think to prove who is right and who is wrong is a matter for the court to deal with

Daniel Bangtor.

The New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff says the arrests were made on specious grounds but he has welcomed an apparent decision by both parties to wait for a court ruling.

The arrests are not the appropriate way to resolve the matter and both sides seem to be agreeing that this matter should now be settled in the court and we would certainly encourage the resolution of the problem in that way.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff