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Fiji Time: 9:51 PM on Friday 22 August

/ Front page / Editorial Comment

On the police beat

Fred Wesley
Friday, August 22, 2014

IN life Vilikesa Ratu Soko was the manager of a rugby club with three young daughters. He was 30 when he died at 5.30pm on Wednesday at the Lautoka Hospital's intensive care unit.

His grieving family said he was in the Western Division looking for work.

Now they are demanding answers from the police after he was reportedly taken in as a suspect in connection to the $50,000 daylight robbery at the City Forex Nadi branch at the weekend before he died.

The family is not convinced by police claims that he was not beaten up.

Now finding itself embroiled in police brutality allegations, the force is urging members of the public not to jump to conclusions.

As the dead man's father shed tears outside the mortuary yesterday morning in Lautoka, police commissioner Ben Groenewald assured members of the public that information regarding police investigations would be shared once completed.

Yesterday relatives of the dead man including his widow gathered at the hospital.

His daughters, aged seven, five and three, remained in Suva.

Relatives were still struggling with what to tell the three little girls who were "close to their father" about the recent turn of events.

It is unfortunate that this has happened.

Given the apparent complexities of such a case, interest will no doubt focus on why the late Mr Soko was first taken in by police, and the various scenarios that existed leading up to his death. This will no doubt include how he came to be linked to the robbery. It is encouraging to note though a statement from the police confirmed the death and said a senior officer had been tasked by the police commissioner to investigate the matter.

Allegations by family members that they were barred from visiting him in hospital will no doubt be investigated also.

The allegation of police brutality is not something to be taken lightly at all.

These allegations will have to be substantiated and proven beyond reasonable doubt though.

A family is in mourning now. A life has been lost. And that is the saddest part of this episode.

The onus is on the police force to do the right thing and to investigate this incident as a matter of priority.

Whichever way the allegations turn out, appropriate action must be seen to be instituted.

This latest event will no doubt bring back memories of the incident that showed a group of men assaulting two other men in the brutality video that went viral online last year.

We hope appropriate action will be taken.

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