Solomons minister accused of assaulting NZ policewoman

By MARY-LOUISE O'CALLAGHAN

HONIARA - The Solomon Islands Intervention Force has arrested a Cabinet minister after he allegedly assaulted a New Zealand police officer while resisting arrest yesterday.

Minister for Communications, Aviation and Metrology, Daniel Fa'afunua, was remanded in custody for two weeks yesterday on seven charges ranging from extortion to assault.

Fa'afunua, a former militant, is the first member of the Solomons Cabinet to face serious charges since the intervention force arrived in the South Pacific nation in July.

He is alleged to have punched Senior Sergeant Annelise Nygaard, a member of the intervention's Participating Police Force in the chest, ripping her uniform before kicking her in the head in the early hours of yesterday.

He is expected to face trial separately on a charge of demanding money with menaces which relates to an incident last year when the editor of the Solomon Star newspaper, John Lamani, was taken to a warehouse on the outskirts of the Solomons' capital, Honiara, and threatened by armed men in the presence of the minister.

In the Nygaard incident, the Honiara Magistrate's Court was told that the assault took place while the officer was attempting to arrest Fa'afunua after he refused to properly identify himself.

Police had been called to the minister's home after he had allegedly dragged his former wife, Susan Kwaimani, along the ground, the court was told. He has been charged with assault causing actual bodily harm in relation to this event.

Police prosecutor, Chris Ryan, said a second charge of assaulting a police officer would be laid.

Under questioning from Ryan, Inspector Alan Schmidt told the court that after his arrest, a handcuffed Fa'afunua had also kicked Nygaard while she was sitting opposite him in the police van.

Last month Fa'afunua received a four-month suspended sentence after being convicted of careless driving, speeding, driving an unlicensed vehicle and refusing to stop.

If convicted of the new charges the minister, who did not apply for bail yesterday, risks losing his seat in Parliament.

Under the Solomon Islands' constitution, a person is automatically disqualified from holding a seat in Parliament if he is sentenced to a prison term of six months or more.

Herald Feature: Solomon Islands

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