Tonga's NZ police head under new attack

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 08:31 23/03/2011

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Tonga's besieged Police Commissioner, New Zealander Chris Kelley, is under assault again with a group of his officers petitioning to have him removed.

It's the second petition aimed at Kelley.

In a statement after the first petition a week ago, Kelley said he was confident he could answer the issues raised.

Taimi Media Network in Tonga says 150 officers of the 422 strong force have demanded that Kelley be removed and replaced with a Tongan.

"What has happened to those who have acquired enough high degrees and renowned in the Department, are they bad and unworthy?" the petition says.

It claims the morale and corruption will get worse under Kelley.

While the petition expresses concern at the way in which Kelley's reforms have impacted the longstanding and traditional procedures of the police, they are also making personal claims.

A case mentioned concerns Kelley ordering one of the police vehicles to be used by his daughter when she was in Tonga on a visit.

"Who does the law applied to and who does it not?" the petition asks.

In the earlier petition, signed by 200 officers, Kelley was accused of favouritism in appointment making.

Kelley had responded to that with a formal statement saying that he had arrived in Tonga in September 2008 under the brief to initiate reform with the help of the governments of Tonga, Australia and New Zealand.

"Those reforms have included an emphasis on transparency, accountability, re-development and institutional strengthening," he said.

"Change may be at the 'heart' of these perceived grievances, change to merit based promotion, change to a new Police Act and change in the way in which we manage disciplinary proceedings.

"I am confident that the changes we have put in place are responsible, appropriate and in line with modernization of a police service."

Kelley said it was now an open, reviewable and accountable process in the police.

"I am very confident I can answer all of the issues that may be raised, provide justification for our executive decisions to date although I must stress that I have yet to receive a copy of the original petition as presented to Parliament," he said.

"The merits of any 'petition' are not for me to judge but I would like the opportunity to answer any allegations and respond on behalf of our service to provide balance to any grievance issues."

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The Tongan cabinet has set up a committee to consider the petitions.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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