From Nausori, on the central eastern side of Fiji, Mereani Rokowati is one of ten Fijian police members working alongside their colleagues from the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.
Coming from beautiful Nausori, located on the central eastern side of Fiji, Mereani Rokowati is one of ten Fijian police members working as part of RAMSI with colleagues from the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.
Her first posting with RAMSI is to Lata Police Station in the remote Temotu Province, where her enthusiasm for meeting new people and learning new skills will stand her in good stead with the local police and villagers.
Mereani brings nearly six years of policing experience to her new role, and previously stationed at the Fiji Police Headquarters in the Strategic Planning, Research & Capability Development Division she has strong experience in general duties, administration and training of Fijian police officers and looks forward to passing on some of her skills to her Royal Solomon Islands Police Force colleagues.
Policing in a provincial area, Mereani will be able to draw on her own Pacific culture to guide her in this sensitive role, which must balance the enforcement of law and order and respect for cultural awareness.
“I think having an Islander background will give me a special connection with the people I will meet and work with while in the Solomon Islands, and sharing common things like culture, custom, religion and food will help me do my job and be a better policewoman.”
Mereani says she feels a great sense of privilege representing her country in RAMSI, especially in her role of providing security to provincial areas and ensuring people live together in harmony and in peace.
“It was a lifelong ambition of mine to be a police officer, and to be able to help people feel like they are safe, secure and have access to justice means a great deal to me. To be able to help out a Pacific neighbour will be one of the highlights of my career - that is for sure.”
Mereani says that the next twelve months working in Solomon Islands as an adviser will give her a chance to develop her leadership skills give her a range of new skills and experiences that she will put to good use when she returns to Fiji.
“Working in a remote environment makes you realise there are a number of ways of approaching a problem and solving it without creating further problems for yourself or others.
“Some of the criminal investigations include travelling by boat to outlying islands or remote coastal villages to speak to victims or arrest offenders. That is one of the interesting things about doing this type of remote policing.”
She adds that RAMSI is unique in that there are so many police officers from across the Pacific region working closely with each other for a common cause.
“Working with police from a range of different cultures, especially with those from the RSIPF, has allowed me to share the best methods of policing and I think everyone comes out a winner with experiences like that,” Mereani says.
With more than fifteen years experience in public prosecutions in Fiji, Australia and even the Marshall Islands, Fiji's Andie Driu brings a huge level of know-how to Solomon Islands
Walk into a courtroom in Solomon Islands today and you will most likely see Solomon Islands judges on the bench and Solomon Islands lawyers leading cases.
It is a dramatic change from the early days of RAMSI when scores of international lawyers dominated the country’s courts after years of neglect and the breakdown of the rule of law during the period of The Tensions.
It is a change partly the result of the efforts of people like Fiji’s Andie Driu, who have worked with Solomon Islanders as advisers and capacity builders over the past nine years to strengthen local skills and knowledge in an effort to rebuild the community’s confidence in the justice system.
“Advisers are stepping back,” explains Ms Driu who is working in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, “two years ago, advisers still had that lead role and were taking charge of most cases.”
“Solomon Island prosecutors are now taking the lead in coordinating cases in the courts, not only in the Magistrate’s Court, but in the High Court, the Court of Appeal and with the provincial circuit courts,” Ms Driu explains.
“This year was the first time that we had a Solomon Islands lawyer lead on three out of four Court of Appeal matters. This would have not been possible if our advisers had not trained them to do so, and it’s a good change.”
As a prosecution adviser, Ms Driu helps to coordinate cases across the different areas of the courts and works with other agencies and private law firms to set the trial calendar. She also helps staff prepare legal advice for government departments and to prosecute on a range of matters, from corruption and money laundering to sexual assault cases and those involving juveniles.
The office also trains other government agencies in how to prepare criminal case briefs for them to prosecute, including customs, the police, fisheries and the tax department.
With more than fifteen years experience in public prosecutions in Fiji, Australia and even the Marshall Islands, Ms Driu brings a huge level of know-how to her job and the team.
Ms Driu says it was the 'pull of the Pacific' and the challenge that drew her to Solomon Islands.
“I wanted to come here because of the challenge. The challenge of building here what I helped build in Fiji and to the same standard.”
“I feel very blessed to be part of RAMSI. Our hearts are in the Pacific,” she says.
Being a Pacific Islander has meant an easy transition to life and work in Honiara.
“It was not hard for me to come to Solomon Islands; Honiara could be any little corner of Fiji”, she laughs.
“I had no problems adapting or settling in. I am so familiar with lack of resources and the Pacific way.”
Ms Driu still has unfinished business in her role. She wants to build the confidence and advocacy skills of her staff, and build their skills in Court of Appeal matters.
“I want my local staff to have a voice. It is fine to have it within the office, talking with me, giving me reports, but I want to see them do that outside of the office, preferably a stronger voice at pushing the office’s agenda to ensure that trials go ahead in the courts in a timely and efficient manner and in addition, a skilful voice in best representing the community in the prosecutions we undertake in all levels of the court.
“I also hope that by doing Court of Appeal matters with me, they are able to gain that legal knowledge in preparing sound written legal submissions within court timetabling orders. With continued capacity building in this area of practice, local prosecutors will be able to confidently display advocacy skills that are worthy of consideration by the highest court of the land.
“I am hopeful that they can learn from me that if you put in that extra effort, you get a good result. Without forgetting that with a team spirit in mind, the office is representative of the community and is able to live up to its vision - A safe and just Solomon Islands supported by a constitutionally independent public prosecutions service under the Rule of Law."