Marshall Islands’ apology after researcher harassed

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Mon, Nov 12, 2012 - Page 3

The government of the Marshall Islands apologized to Taiwan over the alleged use of excessive force by its police force against a Taiwanese horticulture specialist after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs lodged a protest over the case, ministry spokesperson Steve Hsia (夏季昌) said yesterday.

While the case is still being investigated by the ministry a diplomatic note was sent to the Republic of China embassy in Majuro, the country’s capital, in which an apology was offered for the “unacceptable” incident and “regrettable” situation, Hsia said.

The Marshallese Department of Presidential Affairs also promised Ambassador George Li (李自剛) that the case would be handled by the office of the highest-ranking prosecutor in the country, Hsia said.

According to Hsia, the incident took place on Oct. 27, when several Majuro Atoll police officers stopped the truck being driven by the horticulture specialist, surnamed Lee, because of a problem with faulty headlights and handcuffed him.

Kevin Chen (陳振輝), leader of the agriculture technical mission in Majuro, saw the police stop as he happened to be driving by and explained to the police that Taiwanese technical staff are given diplomatic privileges and that the truck was a diplomatic vehicle, Hsia said.

Hsia said the police refused to let them go despite the Republic of China embassy in Majuro contacting the Marshallese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its police department.

According to media reports in the Marshall Islands, Chen was pushed to the ground by police officers and was also handcuffed, while the police radioed for reinforcements.

Hsia said that the ministry was aware of who the police officers involved were, as they had been suspended from duty, as reported by Marshall Islands’ media.

The police action was “brutal” and amounted to an “excessive use of force,” Hsia said.

Hsia refused to comment on rumors that the two men were handcuffed because they had refused to give the officers cash and said that the investigation was ongoing.

Majuro Mayor Mudge Samuel was quoted by media as saying “he recognizes the need for training local police about their duties and conduct.”

“Considering that this was a very minor traffic violation, our officers should have notified them of the problem and let them go or escorted them to their destination, but they did not,” Samuel was quoted by the Marshall Islands Journal as saying.