9 Aug 2002

Vanuatu court quashes police commissoner's appointment

11:17 am on 9 August 2002

Vanuatu's deputy police commissioner, Holly Simon, says the quashing of the appointment of the new police commissioner, Mael Apisai, by the supreme court is an historic moment for the country.

Mr Simon was one of the unsuccessful candidates for the position, and last week filed a complaint over the appointment of Mr Apisai who had failed to be shortlisted for the job by the Police Services Commission.

Yesterday, the court upheld the complaint, quashing Mr Apisai's appointment, and ordering that all 12 candidates for the position be re-interviewed.

Mr Simon says the ruling shows that senior officials cannot abuse their power.

"It is a clear message that even the other government departments have been experiencing those kind of ill-treatment, unfair decision-making - there is a clear message that as from today onward those in power have got to use appropriate power and not abuse their offices, so that is the message we got and it is a very pertaining point for Vanuatu."

Holly Simon also says everything is back to normal and that the country is ready to welcome guests for the Melanesian Arts Festival later this month.

A further court case will be heard in 10 days when senior public officials will appear on criminal conspiracy charges over Mr Apisai's appointment.

The 15, who include Mr Apisai and the Attorney General, were arrested on Sunday but released on bail later in the day.

The prime minister, Edward Natapei, described the police raid as unlawful but also said he would wait with a response to the incident until the court has dealt with the conspiracy charges.