Senior officials representing the Solomon Islands Government (SIG), the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) and the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) this week briefed several hundred Guadalcanal and Malaita province leaders, women and youth at separate meetings held in Honiara and Auki on 23 and 24 November respectively.
Representatives of women, youth, church leaders, village chiefs, tribal chiefs, provincial assembly members and national parliamentarians from Guadalcanal and Malaita had gathered for the dialogues on Peace and Development coordinated by the Ministries of Provincial Government and National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace, and supported by the United Nations Peace Building Program.
Speaking during the Guadalcanal and Malaita leaders dialogues, SIG Special Secretary to RAMSI, John Wasi told the leaders: “As RAMSI is leaving, I urged all of you to embrace each other for peace.”
“Security is everyone’s business and for development to happen in our provinces, there has to a secured environment. It’s not about RAMSI leaving, it’s about the responsibility all of us must shoulder to lead our people into prosperity, Mr Wasi told the Guadalcanal and Malaita leaders.
He added: “Let us support the work of RSIPF in maintaining law and order, let us support our chiefs and elders to govern our people in the right way and allow our women and youth to be part of our decision makings. They have a lot to contribute as well.”
Mr Wasi told the leaders that the SIG is now in dialogue with the governments of Australia, New Zealand and other donors on possible bilateral assistance programs for the RSIPF as RAMSI leaves.
Acting RAMSI Special Coordinator, Alex Cameron told the Guadalcanal and Malaita province leaders that RAMSI is leaving Solomon Islands in June 2017.
“We have been drawing down for several years and RAMSI is now a much smaller mission. RAMSI has withdrawn from frontline duties for several years now as the trust and confidence in the RSIPF continues to grow. The Mission is now primarily focused on police capacity development, training and mentoring behind the scenes,” said Mr Cameron.
He added: “The 15 countries in RAMSI are very proud of the work they have done that has led to changes in the RSIPF during the 13 years that RAMSI has been in Solomon Islands. But the 15 countries are not walking away. We will be here long after RAMSI leaves as countries like Australia and New Zealand establish bilateral policing programs to continue assist the RSIPF.”
“RAMSI leaves with absolute trust and confidence in the RSIPF. Please support your national government to allocate the appropriate level of resources for the RSIPF to continue to build on what it has achieved during the time of RAMSI in the country,” said Mr Cameron.
RSIPF Commissioner, Frank Prendergast told the briefings for the Guadalcanal and Malaita province leaders, the “police force is strong and dependable”.
“We have been policing without operational assistance from the RAMSI Participating Police Force for several years now including providing security during the 2014 national elections. RSIPF is now contributing to United Nations Peacekeeping with five officers currently serving in Darfur, Sudan, being highly commended for their work. Our police are currently providing training for police in Samoa and have already provided training for police in Nauru and Vanuatu. We are no longer only a recipient of assistance, we are now helping to train and develop other police forces in the Pacific.” said Commissioner Prendergast.
He added: “Solomon Islands is a safe place although we have problems caused by the abuse of alcohol and family violence. The Crime Prevention Strategy, which we are rolling out, will address these issues. We need to work with you on rolling out this Strategy to address the root causes of crime in our communities. The police are here to serve the community, we are here to work with you but you need to work with us. We need leaders who deal responsibly with misinformation which can disturb the peace we enjoy in this country.”
The briefings for the Guadalcanal and Malaita leaders are a part of the communication strategy on the RAMSI exit in June 2017. Briefings will also be held in other provinces and for other stakeholders in the coming months.