Solomon Islands held its National General Election on 19 November 2014. Elections in Solomon Islands are always a large-scale and complex security and logistical exercise, as the country is made up of nearly 1000 islands, spread across nine main island groups.
The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) led police operations for the election – the first time since the arrival of RAMSI. As the lead law enforcement body, the RSIPF was responsible for:
. overseeing a safe environment for voters;
. providing security at polling stations;
. escorting ballot boxes to counting centres to ensure their safe passage; and
. maintaining a secure environment during voting day and counting days.
RAMSI played a purely supporting role during the election period – assisting with preparations for the election and helping to bolster community confidence. RAMSI’s Participating Police Force (PPF) was not called upon to play an operational role during the election period. This is a testament to the rigorous planning, professionalism and high-level of skill displayed by the RSIPF during this critical time for Solomon Islands.
The 2014 National General Election was the biggest security operation the RSIPF has led since RAMSI arrived in 2003. The success of the operation demonstrates how far the RSIPF has progressed in recent years and highlights the Force’s level of preparation and current capabilities.
In the lead up to the elections, the RSIPF undertook an extensive program of community engagement. This involved a large scale media campaign and provincial visits, encouraging communities to work together with police to ensure the election was peaceful. The RSIPF also conducted regular community outreach sessions involving senior RSIPF officers in the months leading up to the election.
To ensure security across the country, large numbers of RSIPF officers were deployed from Honiara out into the provinces. The scale and complexity of such a logistical exercise cannot be understated. Due to the RSIPF’s level of preparation, officers were deployed well-ahead of polling day, with minimal assistance from RAMSI. These officers ensured that voting day and the counting days were peaceful and secure
RSIPF officers conducted high-visibility patrols in both Honiara and throughout the provinces before, and during, polling day and in the counting period. These patrols helped to create a secure environment and bolstered community confidence in the RSIPF.
In the lead up to the elections, RAMSI’s Participating Police Force (PPF) provided election-specific training support to the RSIPF, in addition to other capacity development work.
This involved further public order management training of relevant parts of the RSIPF, including a number of exercises. RAMSI also delivered – jointly with RSIPF – a command, control and coordination training course to senior RSIPF officers.
PPF advisors assisted RSIPF with their operational planning for the election. PPF also provided support to the RSIPF’s corporate support areas – such as budgeting, human resource planning and logistics – which helped the RSIPF put in place all the necessary arrangements to support its front-line officers with election operations.
During the operation, RAMSI PPF officers assisted with high-visibility patrols and engaged with local communities in Honiara and out in the provinces. This helped to bolster community confidence in police preparedness.
RAMSI also provided some minimal logistical assistance to RSIPF during the operation to ensure that police officers were deployed as needed. However this assistance was markedly less than compared to previous elections.
Other international donors also provided logistical and financial support to the Solomon Islands Government for the National General Election.
RAMSI brought a surge of additional police personnel from Australia, New Zealand and participating Pacific Island countries into Solomon Islands on a temporary basis to assist with security operations for the National General Election.
While these additional police officers were deployed to Solomon Islands as a precautionary measure to assist the RSIPF help ensure a safe and peaceful election, RAMSI’s Participating Police Force was not called upon to play an operational role during the election period.