The youth of Solomon Islands have been challenged to think seriously about what kind of future they want for their country now that peace exists following the 14-year partnership with the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).
The issue was raised by senior officers of the Solomon Islands Government (SIG), Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) and RAMSI during outreach meetings on the RAMSI drawdown and post-RAMSI arrangements at several secondary schools and technical colleges in and around Honiara this month.
Many youth felt that the country was now in their hands and students and youths should not look only at the police to take care and responsibility for peace and stability in the country. “It’s a responsibility for all of us,” a student from King George Sixth National Secondary School said.
During the outreach meetings, students sought RAMSI’s assurances that the RSIPF was capable of taking full responsibility for keeping law and order when RAMSI leaves June this year, including the responsibility for a small number of officers being rearmed. Some asked if the police were still corrupt.
The RAMSI Special Coordinator and senior Participating Police Officers confirmed that the RSIPF was ready and that it was a very professional organisation. They explained that the RSIPF was a very different force than during the Tensions period. Almost two in every three RSIPF officers were recruited and trained after RAMSI arrived.
The RSIPF and RAMSI officers also assured students that the RSIPF Executive had a very strong commitment and robust systems to deal with RSIPF officers that did not meet the high standards of ethics and discipline demanded by the people of Solomon Islands. They encouraged the students to report any concerns to senior RSIPF officers.
On behalf of Solomon Islands youth and as future leaders of the country, some of the students thanked RAMSI for bringing back peace and law and order to Solomon Islands. The students also thanked members of RAMSI for their personal sacrifices and paid tribute to those members of RAMSI who had lost their lives serving in Solomon Islands.
“We are now enjoying the peace you brought us,” one student said. “We will always remember RAMSI,” said another at King George Sixth National Secondary School.
The students were also pleased to hear that RAMSI contributing countries such as Australia and New Zealand would continue to support security in Solomon Islands after RAMSI left.
During the presentations at the schools, representatives of the RSIPF and RAMSI emphasised that education was a gift and it should be valued and used to do good in the community.
The students were urged to be productive members of their communities and to assist their leaders and other youth to help the police implement the RSIPF Crime Prevention Strategy, which recognised that alcohol and drug abuse and issues affecting youth (e.g. unemployment) were two major drivers of crime.
The RAMSI drawdown outreach team will continue to visit schools in and around of Honiara, as well as in the provinces, over the next couple of months. So far, the team has spoken to students at Betikama Adventist College, Selwyn College, Bishop Epalle School, King George VI National Secondary School, Don Bosco Technical College and Marara Community High School. It also plans to visit at least seven other schools before RAMSI ends in June this year