Communities in the Weathercoast of Guadalcanal Province have described the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) as the “saviour of our communities” and said that “RAMSI redeemed us from the clutches of evil.”
These have been some of the sentiments expressed by representatives of Peochakuri Village and people in and around Kuma and Haliatu villages.
The comments were made over recent weeks as senior representatives from the Solomon Islands Government, the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) and RAMSI travelled repeatedly to the Weathercoast to brief the people of the region on the preparations for RAMSI’s exit on 30 June, their confidence in the RSIPF, and post-RAMSI security and policing support from Australia and New Zealand.
“The RAMSI intervention made a great difference in our lives. It restored law and order. We now have freedom of speech and freedom of movement. You restored our relationship with the government and united our people. The Tension ceased and you restored the government machinery, the economic, social, physical and spiritual sectors,” said Patrick Ledi, a community leader at Peochakuri village.
“We, the indigenous people of this nation, valued your time with us. You truly salvaged our nation. You nurtured us and you buried our differences,” said Mr Ledi.
Another community leader of Peochakuri village, Mr Sahu said: “RAMSI is like a saviour to us. You redeemed us from the evil era. When Nick Warner, the first RAMSI Special Coordinator visited us in 2003, he promised us a transparent, disciplined and professional RSIPF. We are happy to hear from you that we now have such a police force before the end of RAMSI.”
During the discussions, the visiting teams emphasised that the security and future of Solomon Islands will be in the hands of its citizens when RAMSI departs on 30 June 2017. They explained that, after 14 years of assistance from RAMSI, the RSIPF is ready to take full responsibility for maintaining law and order and the security of Solomon Islands, but the police cannot do it alone. Law enforcement agencies need the support of everyone in the country.
The officials from Honiara also emphasised that the RSIPF deserved the trust and confidence of Solomon Islanders. They pointed to the roll-out of the Crime Prevention Strategy, the limited rearmament of the two specialist police units, and the recently completed firearms amnesty (22 May to 9 June), combined with the strong leadership and good outcomes being delivered regularly by the Force.
The SIG, RSIPF and RAMSI representatives also told the Weathercoast communities that, while RAMSI will end, the Mission’s participating countries will not abandon Solomon Islands. Australia and New Zealand will provide, for example, bilateral policing assistance to the RSIPF from July. Solomon Islands is also finalising a treaty with Australia that would facilitate faster assistance if both nations agreed that help from Australia was required in the case of a natural disaster or other crisis.
The SIG-RAMSI team spoke to hundreds of people, including community and church leaders, women, youth and children. Unfortunately, the unpredictable weather in that part of Guadalcanal prevented further planned consultations with other Weathercoast communities.
This outreach forms the last leg of the Government and RAMSI’s community engagement program ahead of RAMSI’s conclusion on 30 June.