Kasieng’s punishment excessive

Editorial, Normal

The National- Wednesday, January 26, 2011

 THE punishment must always match the crime, it is always said.

We do not think West Sepik provincial police commander Sakawar Kasieng’s “crime” matches the punishment he received this week at the hands of his bosses.

Granted – it is a disciplinary matter and one that we would not normally comment on believing it to be an internal matter.

But, come on: Defending an officer under your command who has been beaten senseless by other police officers is not a big enough crime to warrant relieving you of your command and suspension from duties.

And, that is all Kasieng ever did.

Kasieng, two weeks ago, protested in the strongest manner possible to the commanding officer of police operation Sunset Merona, Jerry Frank, when four members of the task force deployed there beat up a local policeman.

The story, as far as we can gather, was that the victim had been driving an unregistered vehicle. This story does not match the version that Kasieng has given us but, even if the policeman was driving an unregistered car, does it warrant a very serious beating to warrant hospitalisation. Another story is that the officer, who was beaten, had made derogatory remarks against the special operation on the border.

Are we to take it that the punishment for an offence such as driving an unregistered car or for freedom of speech is a terrible beating?

The bridge of this officer’s nose was broken and he had open wounds to his lips, cheeks and head, Kasieng said.

He is still suffering the effects of the beating. And, while he suffers, the policemen responsible for the beating are still at large despite assurances that they would be brought to justice.

Kasieng was assured that those responsible for the beating would be brought to justice. On the third day after he was assured that the perpetrators would be brought to justice, Kasieng broke silence and slammed the operation and the criminal methods of some of the officers deployed in the operation.

He further informed the commander, Frank, that he was closing his station to officers involved in the operation.

Over the weekend, Kasieng received a visit from his northern divisional commander, Giosi Labi, from Lae. Following the visit, Kasieng received a notice signed by deputy police chief Fred Yakasa suspending him from duties for closing a public office, for denying the public access and for going to the media on operational issues without authorisation.

In light of the afore going considerations, we can say that suspension is too serious a punishment for the actions taken by Kasieng.

We feel that Kasieng is part of the on-going differences that exist within the police force today.

It would appear he has been thrown onto the side of those who the current management feels are siding with suspended police commissioner Gari Baki.

Whether the suspicious are true or not, this is a trend that will only end with the force being torn about by internal strife.

The problem has its genesis in 2006 at the time various senior officers’ names, including incumbent acting Commissioner Tony Wagambie, Baki, Tom Kulunga and Fred Sheekiot were being tossed around as candidates to replace then commissioner Sam Inguba.

The NEC, in 2007, chose Baki over the rest.

Baki then reappointed Raphael Huafolo, who was suspended by then deputy police commissioner Sheekiot. 

Other suspended and terminated officers are said to have been reinstated as well.

Angry with the decision, the police association wrote to the prime minister to remove Baki as police commander. 

Baki’s appointment has been challenged in court by Sheekiot, Wagambie and Kulunga.

The story is a long and involved one but that is how it began.

Now that Wagambie is acting commissioner, the differences appear to be continuing.

Now Wagambie is accused of reinstating those suspended or are facing serious charges.

We say the onus is on Wagambie to bring this to a conclusion. It will be the measure of the man.

Internal strife, at this time when police unity and cohesion is needed, must be avoided at all costs and it is imperative and the onus is upon this management to find the will and the means to mend it or end it, not to perpetrate it.