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Justice might well be served when those who abuse their authority are held accountable

We wish to state from the outset that not all of our systems have been corrupted because there are decent men and women out there doing their uttermost best under the circumstances and being true to their calls. However, there are individuals in the system that need to look more closely in the mirror because their behavior and attitude shapes the perceptions people have of the very systems we all come under.

As such, Campaign For Justice strongly advocates for people to be held accountable for their behaviors, attitudes and decisions they make while operating within the system.

With the brief introduction above, we wish to expose the behavior of an individual – a so-called law enforcement officer – whose actions unquestionably have caused damage to the life of a citizen and brought harm to the reputation of our law enforcement agency in Santo.

That individual is Sergeant Jean Baptise Palo, who surprisingly as his title denotes, is a law enforcement officer with the Vanuatu Police Force based in Santo. His actions have undermined the office he works under, and have clearly contributed to creating serious doubts in the minds of people about the role of police in the northern town.

It is public knowledge that Australia has funded a police information system that was introduced as a data control base solution for the better management of cases. The system was meant to do away with the old manual registration system. With this system, ordinary citizens were meant to be assured that their complaints and cases would go through a proper and transparent process in the pursuit of justice.

C4J has discovered that Sgt. Jean Baptise Palo –  abusing his powers as an enforcement officer manipulated the system to his best interests to support a group of chiefs of Big Bay to falsify a police statement and damage the reputation of another citizen, Environmentalist and Conservationalist, Mr. Stephen Quinto, on the 20th of April 2015. 

Sgt. Jean Baptise Palo even went an extra mile to allegedly invade Mr. Quito’s premises on the 3rd of July 2015, in his absence with two Vanuatu Mobile Force members, accompanied by Chief Buoe Vano from Big Bay, Santo and his people allegedly looking for ‘guns’.

The men went into Mr. Quinto’s premises without a warrant. The Police and the VMF trespassed and authorized civilians to accompany them while trespassing and assisting them to place namele leaves around Mr. Quinto office. They then took the office keys and went away.

Apparently Sgt. Jean Baptise Palo is a member of the tribe in Big Bay, claiming right of custom ownership of the Land that Steven Quinto set up his East of Eden conservation project.

It is clear Sgt. Palo abused the police system to his own advantage and had an intention to tarnish Mr. Quinto’s reputation.

A police statement filed by Palo and his cronies alleged that Mr Quinto bribed people to acquire customary land, bribed a custom landowner with a brand-new Ford Vehicle, bribed a custom landowner with Vt2,000,000, and created unrest in the communities around Big Bay area.

Further, the statement alleged Mr. Quinto destroyed a clinic and supply of medicine, smuggled arms and ammunition and concealed them at his Big Bay bush home. The statement was signed by four (4) chiefs. Later, they used the police statement to convince the Chairman and Secretary of Tavuemasana , Santo island council of chiefs, Chief Levus Tamata to use their powers to facilitate their evil plans against Quinto.

Chief Levus Tamata and Secretary James Surai then wrote a letter to the police commander North, Willie Samuel to order his men to carry out a search at PuelVunsupe Area, Big Bay Bush where Steven Quinto’s East of Eden Conservation project was located.

Now who is to be blamed here? Is it the police system that officers input the police complaints into it or the officer entering the complaint into the system? The Police information Management System is just a system. Someone clearly must bear responsibility for this absurdity.

This incident happened in 2015. Five year on still nothing has been done by the police authorities to discipline Sgt. Palo for his actions. Further details to Sgt Palo’s actions have now been uncovered and you can read it all here.

Mr. Quinto was advised by his lawyer to lodge a complaint about this incident to the Police in Santo, which he did. So far nothing has come of it. A letter by Quinto’s lawyer has been sent to Willie Samuel, the Assistant Commissioner North at the Police in Luganville Santo, requesting to receive some information about the alleged police complaint against Mr. Quinto.

This letter was sent on the 7th of September 2015.  Senior Inspector Edouard Atuari has since replied, claiming that his office had never received a police officer’s complaint in their system alleging Sgt. Palo’s involvement with the Chiefs of Big Bay.

There is no doubt Sgt. Palo committed a criminal offence, and it is clear he was part of the conspiracy against Mr. Quinto. He broke the police disciplinary rules and code of conduct.

A separate complaint has been subsequently lodged against Sgt. Palo with the Police in Luganville Santo. To date, no action has been taken against Sgt. Palo.

Campaign for Justice is raising the ante and its grave disappointment over the long delays and lack of punitive action against police officers concerned. Furthermore, the case has been pending since 2016 and Campaign for Justice is disappointed to continue to see how Stephen Quinto’s Defamation case is being dealt with by his Lawyer, Marie Noelle Ferrieux Patterson. It raises a question, will Mr. Stephen Quinto wait for another 4 years to acquire fair Justice for the actions that were carried out against him?

With the behavior of just one individual manipulating the system to suit his own agenda, Campaign for Justice is calling out to the Police Commissioner and the authorities to make sure their officers serve with integrity and ensure ordinary citizens of Vanuatu obtain justice they deserve.

C4J looks with interest if the officer’s naming and public exposure will elicit a reaction from the police hierarchy.

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