About two thousand women of the Catholic Church from several provinces in Solomon Islands were briefed on the Staged Limited Rearmament of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) on 13 August.
The women from Guadalcanal, Central and Makira Provinces are attending the 8th Archdiocese Gathering for Catholic Women being held at the Catholic Tangarare Parish in West Guadalcanal.
Organisers of the meeting invited representatives of the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services, the RSIPF and the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) for a briefing on the RSIPF limited rearmament project approved by the Government in 2013.
Following the presentation from the Ministry of Police, RSIPF and RAMSI participants expressed their appreciation for the information session with many women indicating their support for the plan by the Solomon Islands Government to rearm three units of the local police force.
Women commented on the need for RSIPF officers to be equipped and ready to protect and serve their communities. Many welcomed the rearmament of parts of the RSIPF as a means to enable police officers to better protect themselves and community members in high-threat situations, and as a last resort.
The women urged members of the RSIPF to take the rearmament seriously as it was a significant responsibility. As mothers, they were therefore happy to hear that as a key part of the rearmament project, police officers are being trained to the highest standards with a strong focus on accountability and discipline.
It was also noted that officers of the RSIPF were working hard to rebuild the trust the community have in them, which was lost during the social unrest which affected Solomon Islands in 1998 to 2000.
Women were also happy to hear that police may be rearmed because this would also assist to improve confidence in the security of the border areas with Papua New Guinea.
The women reminded themselves that they and all members of the community need to work together with the police if law and order, peace and stability is going to be maintained across the country. Police and the conference participants agreed that there was a need for families to care for their children so that they stayed out of trouble.
After the presentations to the women’s gathering at Tangarare, the team from the Ministry of Police, RSIPF and RAMSI travelled to Komate Village on West Guadalcanal where they briefed about 200 members of the local community on the staged limited rearmament project.
More support was expressed at Komate for the project. Local people who spoke during the discussions thanked the Government for the rearmament project and also for building the new police post in their community. They said they will feel safe when members of the RSIPF are rearmed.
The people of Komate thanked Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific island countries for their assistance with RAMSI as most of them were displaced as a result of the ethnic tension. They still have fear after facing the guns during that time but are happy that the government recognise the situation by building a police station at Komate.
Since the community consultation on the staged limited rearmament of the RSIPF began towards the end of 2014, support has been expressed by the Western, Isabel Makira, Renbel, Guadalcanal and Malaita provincial assemblies and communities as well as organisations in and around Honiara. The consultation team has also made presentations to several thousand students and youth during the three Youth Markets held in Honiara in April, May and July this year. The community consultation team hopes to consult with the rest of the provinces in coming months.