Leelesh Chandar, a part-time undertaker for Cook Islands Funeral Services, highlighted his concerns on the Te Kave Korero radio show earlier this month, saying that back in 2011, police officer Leighton Boaza left him in a police holding cell without charge.
“He put me in the cell for one hour 15 minutes without charges and to this day my complaint remains uninvestigated, despite a directive by the court,” Chandar told Te Kave Korero radio show presenter Tony Hakaoro.
On November 9, 2012, Justice Christine Grice, in sentencing Chandar in the Cook Islands High Court, on one count of theft, made the following comments;
“As an important footnote, I mention my concern about the handling of the complaint you lodged with the police alleging Leighton Boaza had put you in a cell….You said that you had made the complaint and indeed you had. The problem is that the police did not investigate it…it is of grave concern that this complaint went uninvestigated… I trust it would be followed up.”
Chandar said since then he has been talking to the police several times and still nothing had been done
“I am disappointed. I have been going to the police and they ignored me and they say go to a lawyer, they don’t want to talk to me.”
Tony Hakaoro of Radio Cook Islands featured Chandar’s story on his show recently and asked him if he had spoken to police commissioner Maara Tetava regarding his complaint.
Chandar said: “I did make appointments with the police commissioner and they said the commissioner was quite busy so it would take one or two days. So I waited another two weeks and still no response, so I returned and kept making appointments.”
Chandar claimed that on one occasion a high-ranking police officer told him to forget about the complaint. Speaking shortly after the Te Kave Korero show Hakaoro lashed out at police, saying it was “grossly unfair and unprofessional” for the police to ignore this type of complaint and not investigate it.
“Let me put it this way: Mr Chandar’s complaint was made in 2011 and in 2012, Justice Grice made special mention of it after sentencing Chandar.
“This is very serious. Here we have someone’s human rights being violated, and the poor guy was unlawfully held in custody for almost two hours and then released without charge.
“Over three years later, the complaint is still not investigated, despite the judge’s directive. This is totally unacceptable in this day and age.
“I believe the police are totally incompetent and there is no excuse whatsoever for their failure to investigate the complaint.
“What are they waiting for? Do they want Chandar to go to the expense of hiring a lawyer and suing them in court? Or are they hoping that Chandar cannot afford a lawyer and will forget about the complaint therefore negating a need for them to investigate it?”
“If that’s their attitude, it stinks as far as I’m concerned.”
Hakaoro said it was irrelevant that Chandar has been convicted and sentenced on one count of theft.
“Having been sentenced on that matter is a different story. Being held in custody unlawfully, for almost two hours, and not being charged or arrested, is a different story. It is a clear violation of his human rights.”
According to Hakaoro, Chandar was convicted of theft arising from a Nigerian scam in which he assisted some scammers by transferring money to Nigeria and was sentenced in 2012 to 12 months’ probationary supervision.
“We need to separate the two matters. This is a complaint against the police, they are two different issues and we need to distinguish them as two separate matters, not one”.
Hakaoro, a former court officer in New Zealand claimed the police were clearly at fault and must be held accountable.
Hakaoro said police commissioner Maara Tetava, was invited to be interviewed on radio together with Chandar, but he declined.
“Given the police commissioner’s refusal to attend the interview, perhaps it’s time for us to have an Independent Police Authority, like that in New Zealand, so that this type of complaint is investigated independent of the police,”said Hakaoro.
Inspector John Strickland,told CI News police were not prepared to comment on the issue.