Sun, Oct 22, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Raid on Solomons PM's office probed by government

AFP , SYDNEY

The Solomons Islands government has launched a probe into Friday's police raid on the prime minister's office, which followed his refusal to hand over an official to Australia on child sex charges, a media report said yesterday.

Solomon Islands Finance Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo said he was furious with the way the raid was conducted and accused local police and members of the Australian-led regional assistance mission acting maliciously.

There was no immediate response given by the police or the mission.

"They [the government] have already urged [the] police authority to investigate whether the behavior was lawful and was it warranted in the way that it was conducted," Lilo told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

He said the police had a search warrant to obtain a fax machine they believed was used to help the country's new attorney general, Julian Moti, enter the Solomons without travel documentation.

Moti is wanted in Australia on child sex charges.

But Lilo said vandalizing the office of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare was not necessary.

"They just went and kicked the doors and forced open a room in which ... the fax machine was located, causing damage to the door's lock," he said.

Lilo said there was a "mark on the door" and added the episode was "just absolutely ridiculous."

Australia had been trying to extradite Moti from Papua New Guinea on child sex charges, but their efforts were frustrated by opposition from the governments in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

A statement from Sogavare's office on Friday said the Solomon Islands government was withdrawing the allocation of Australian aid money to the post of police commissioner, which is occupied by Australian Shane Castles.

It was widely reported Castles had been sacked, but the Solomon Island government's Australian-based lawyer, Roger Robiallard, said he had just been given a pay cut.

"This means that as of October 19, Mr Castle will [be] earning 20,000 Australian dollars [US$15,125] a year because the rest of his salary was paid for by Australia."

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