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Judicial CP - March 2006

Corpun file 18351

Solomon Star, Honiara, 6 March 2006

Wagina whips offenders

By George Herming

COMMUNITY peace and harmony have been successfully established at the Gilbertese settlement at Wagina, Choiseul Province after the introduction of the "whip punishment" for law breakers.

The whip system has been unanimously agreed upon and was reintroduced last year after the community has experienced a surge in social disharmony in past years.

Wagina villager, Ata Tabeuta told Solomon Star at Wagina a week ago that all young and old members of the community including visitors are subjected to the whip.

"In here nobody is above the coconut branch whip if you break community laws. Whether you're are chief, a priest, a tough guy, a mother, a child or a visitor, we are all subjected to the ‘coconut branches' if we break the law," Mr Tabeuta said.

According to Tabeuta, the whip system has strengthened tolerance to community laws because every body fears being thrashed. Adults are awarded 24 whips while children receive half of that for any crime that is committed.

"But the amount will immediately be doubled if the offender makes threatening statements on whip enforcers on the spot," he said.

Once an offender is found guilty of a crime, he or she will be made to sit at the centre of a Maneaba (meeting house) in front of the community's more than 2000 population before being whipped accordingly.

The community has also selected a special group of men who enforce the whip. "Normally the community's muscle men are chosen to carry out the whip," Mr Tabeuta said.

He said offenders always suffer back and thigh injuries and couldn't walk for hours after being whipped.

"But nobody will oppose that because there is already an unanimous decision by community members that offenders must be whipped.

"If a person tries to oppose the whip system, that person too would be arrested and whipped immediately for his or her opposition," Mr Tabeuta said.

According to Tabeuta, Wagina has experienced a rapid decline in community disorder and people are very pleased with peace and harmony in the village. "Before the introduction of the whip, drunkards cause a lot of trouble, stealing and sexual abuse is very high. But today, you hardly see anybody drinking alcohol and causing disturbance around the community.

"Everyone fears the whip. That's a good thing about it," said Mr Tabeuta.

A complete ban on selling of beer and any homemade alcohol including the traditional coconut brew (Te Kareve) is also put in place after the introduction of whip punishment. Other restrictions included the movement of people, especially youths after eight o'clock at night in the village.

"This restriction is imposed because there is a conventional believe that when youths get together in groups at night, they would usually plan crimes such as stealing or get involved in alcohol, drug and sexual abuse," Tabeuta said.

He added that the restriction of night movement has also helped to reduce Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) among young people in the community.

"This is also another success for the community to prevent STIs," he said. The whip system has also helped the police officers on the island to enjoy their sweatless job here," Tabeuta added.

Corpun file 17486

Solomon Star, Honiara, 7 March 2006

'Whipping is illegal'

By Arthur Wate

WHIPPING as a form of punishment is illegal, Public Solicitor Ken Averre said yesterday.

He was responding to our page 2 story yesterday about "whip punishment" practised at Wagina, Choiseul, by the Gilbertese community there.

"This is an illegal form of punishment. It is inhumane and degrading.

"Corporal punishment has been abolished a long time ago. No one has the power to punish anyone by whipping them," Mr Averre told the Solomon Star.

He said his office was very concerned about the practise.

"We are very concerned about this issue. I am going to ask the Commissioner of Police to investigate it.

"In fact I've already written a letter which will be sent to the Police Commissioner tomorrow (today) about our concern.

"...yes chiefs have powers under the Local Court Act to deal with crimes in their communities, but they don't have the power to whip anyone," Mr Averre added.

The Wagina community claimed this form of punishment, introduced last year, helped reduced crime and restore peace in the village.

A villager Ata Tabeuta said everyone in the community is subjected to the whip, despite their status.
However, another organisation, Save the Children Office in Honiara, said it is also concern about the whipping policy.

"We recognise and promote the role of traditional justice systems in principle and certainly believe that the establishment of community responses to minor violations of social order can help in creating peace and cohesion within a community.

"But we strongly argue against the human rights aspect of whipping, especially when enforced on children," said Ian Rodgers, Country Program Director of Save the Children.

He said the practise could in no way justify the flagrant violation of human rights, which the concept of public corporal punishment constitutes.

"The basis of traditional justice mechanisms need to be based on a restorative and rehabilitative nature.

"That is to say that the individual must recognise and understand that their behaviour has offended someone and they are prepared to make amends, creating a win-win situation and reducing the likelihood of the person re-offending."

Mr Rodgers said the use of violence and threat of violence is abhorrent to human dignity, which is underpinned in the Solomon Islands constitution as "No person shall be subject to torture or inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment".

"Crime prevention is an important aspect which all members of a community can contribute but it should be preventative not reactive.

"In general and especially amongst children and young people anti-social behaviour such as drinking, fighting etc are a reaction to their environment.

"Introduction of draconian institutions such as whipping will only serve to further alienate people and make them feel repressed," he said.

Mr Rodgers said while there may in fact be a temporary drop in anti-social behaviour in the short term due to the introduction of whipping, equally in the long term the present punishment system may lead to an increase in anti-social behaviour as people attempt to rebel against their repression.

The leaders and ordinary people of Wagina have unanimously agreed upon the whip punishment following a surge in community disorder in past years.

But Mr Rodgers said: "This is simply not applicable for children who do not have the ability to consent to such things.

"Neither do the parents as this goes against the principles of best interest of the child which are laid out in such convention as those of rights of the child, which the Solomon Islands has ratified.

"In addition because it was stated that the punishment would be double if someone contested the whipping or whipper, then no argument can be made for consent as people are under fear of being punished for not voting for the punishment."

He said publicly whipping any person little alone children is not only clearly a degrading, inhuman and humiliating act it is also an act of assault under the penal code section 245 punishable by up to five years in prison.

"Therefore any person who has or in the future receives a whipping would be within their rights to press charges of assault against the person who carried out the whipping and those in authority who ordered it," Mr Rodgers said.

He added that all those involved in the administering of the punishment could be subject to jail sentence if convicted.

"Surely lessons from the tension around the effects of violence and fear have been learnt," he said

He encourages communities to find ways, which are positive re-enforcements of community cohesion not violations that go against common sense and the country's constitution.

Copyright 2004 Solomon Star Newspaper, Honiara, Solomon Islands

Corpun file 17484

Solomon Star, Honiara, 8 March 2006

Whipping practice defended

By Arthur Wate

A SOLOMON Islander of Kiribati origin has defended the whipping system practised in the Gilbertese community at Wagina, Choiseul Province.

John Bakeua, an academic at the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education, argued the whipping of offenders is only a measure, not an imposed system.

He said criticisms by Public Solicitor Ken Averre of this measure as illegal were not helpful.

"I think this is more a matter of law and order than a legal issue.

"When you look at Wagina, it is very much a traditional community.

"In traditional Gilbertese communities, whipping is very much part of our culture.

"We whip our children so that they learn to do the right thing.

"What the chiefs and elders in Wagina were doing now was simply the continuation of that culture.

"So I think people like Mr Averre should not view this issue in its legal context, but more so as a matter of deterrent," Mr Bakeua said.

He said Wagina used to experience a lot of social problems connected to drinking. But since the introduction of the whip, law and order and peace had been restored into the community.

Mr Averre also argued that the Western world used to practise capital and corporal punishment as part of their justice system.

"They are now in another era and have since abolished these practises.

"We in the Pacific, and in Solomon Islands for that matter, are still in our infant stages in life and development.

"And so I don't see any problems with corporal punishment in our traditional society.

"In fact corporal punishment would help shape the discipline of a child as he or she grows up.

"As long as it is used as only a measure and deterrent, and not imposed on the community, it should be allowed to remain.

"Because at the end of the day, a person won't get the cane if he or she lives by the rules of his or her community," Mr Bakeua said.

He said he feared that comments made by Mr Averre, describing whipping as illegal, inhumane and degrading would encourage youths at Wagina to return to their old ways.

"I believe a community needs to put measures in place to control the behaviour of its members.

"This is exactly what the community of Wagina is doing, and they shouldn't be stopped from doing it," Mr Bakeua added.

Public Solicitor Mr Averre yesterday sent a letter to the Commissioner of Police, asking the police to investigate the whipping of offenders at Wagina.

He said chiefs have no right to whip offenders.

Save the Children Office in Honiara has also expressed its concern.

Country Program Director Ian Rodgers said while they recognise the role of traditional justice systems, they are against the human rights aspect of whipping.

Copyright 2004 Solomon Star Newspaper, Honiara, Solomon Islands

Corpun file 18349

Solomon Star, Honiara, 31 March 2006

Call to stop "whipping"

By Moffat Mamu

POLICE are urged to act quickly over the whip punishment exercised by the Gilbertese Settlement at Wagina, Choiseul Province.

A concern community woman, who refused to be named for fear of retaliation, said early this week a fight broke out after a youth was repeatedly whipped.

According to the woman, the youth was punished because he was drunk and shouting unnecessarily in the village.

She said the fight broke out after the youth who had received his 24 whips walked away and told others to bring him his trouser which he left in the Maneaba (meeting house) where the whipping took place.

"The boy was walking away in pain and this lady called on to him telling him that he had forgot his trouser.

"The boy then asked her to bring the trouser later, it was while he was replying to the woman that one of those who punished him went up to him and slapped him telling him that he will receive another 50 sticks," the woman alleged.

She said while the man was struggling with the boy, the boy's wrap-around (lavalava) fell exposing his nakedness to the 2000 or so community members who gathered to witness the whipping punishment that morning.

"The man carrying out the punishment was so angry with the boy that instead of allowing the boy to lie down to receive his 50 whips, he went ahead and smacked the naked boy everywhere from his waist down to his legs.

"The boy's mother came by and asked the man to pity her son and the whipper retaliated on the mother by punching her. This led to a fight between the boy's family and those carrying out the punishment," the woman alleged.

She said she had read reports that whipping, as a form of punishment is illegal. "I read about the public solicitor's comment against whipping and about a letter he will be writing to the commissioner of police to investigate this practice. But to this date, nothing has happened and whipping punishments are continuing," the woman said.

She said though she supported this punishment upon those who caused criminal activities in the community, there were incidents where community leaders punished people because of "hear says".

"Most of the punishment being carried out are happening because of rumours and it is very unfair when innocent people are being punished.

"People do not have to receive whips, there are matters for families to solve among themselves but to punish someone who swears or express anger in his or her own household with 24 whips in front of the 2000 community members is really unnecessary," the concern [sic] woman said.

She then urged RAMSI and local police officers to look into this and put a full stop to it. "I want RAMSI to involve because our community leaders tell us, their actions are approved by RAMSI. Whether this is true or not I want RAMSI to involve in this operation to explain clearly to the people that such action is wrong," the woman said.

blob Follow-up: 12 April 2006 - Youngsters hail police intervention

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