Banana Festival briefed on limited rearmament of RSIPF

Several thousand participants and visitors to the 2nd Annual Banana Festival held at Kirakira, Makira-Ulawa Province from 1 – 4 September 2015 have been briefed on the Staged Limited Rearmament of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF).

The community consultation team, consisting of representatives of the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services; the RSIPF and the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) briefed over fifty stall holders and thousands of visitors from the surrounding villages who flocked to the provincial capital Kirakira to take part in the various activities organised during the festival.

The community consultation team also briefed the over 500 students and teachers at the Waimapuru National Secondary School and the 300 students and teachers at the F.M Campbell Memorial Community High School in Kirakira.

During the consultations, there was support expressed for the Government’s decision to prepare to rearm three units of the RSIPF. It was felt that as a developing country Solomon Islands will face issues such as terrorism and international drug smuggling so the Government should arm its police force. People expressed satisfaction with reasons given by the Government for the rearming of RSIPF including to uphold law and order; protect communities and the police from criminal elements; maintain airport security; protect Solomon Islands’ international borders and to manage problem crocodiles.

At same time several issues were also raised for consideration by the Government before the project goes into its second stage.

These included:

  •  Continually improving the attitude of the RSIPF officers who will be serving in the Police Response Team, the Aviation Police and Close Personal Protection Unit.
  • Balanced recruitment into the three units should be considered seriously to ensure no one province dominated.
  • Whether there was any other alternative that will provide security to people in Solomon Islands without rearming the RSIPF.
  • Officers should be trained to change their mindset and performance to regain the respect and confidence of the communities.
  • Whether the rearming of the RSIPF would end criminal activities in Solomon Islands.
  • Whether the private licensed firearms destroyed by RAMSI when the Mission arrived in 2003 will be compensated and if the Government will also consider recommencing the issuing of privately licensed firearms.

Responding to the issues raised, the consultation team explained that the rearmament training program for officers is of a very high standard and included a strong emphasis on training officers to make good decisions under various difficult use-of-force scenarios.

The team also noted that consideration are already given to broad provincial representation when recruiting staff into the three units that will be rearmed and that getting the right gender balance is also considered important. But at the end of the day, only those officers that passed the training would be eligible to be rearmed – merit and performance would be critical.

It was explained that the RSIPF could not operate as an independent law enforcement entity unless it was rearmed. Criminals were becoming more sophisticated in their choice of weapons. As a member of the international community, Solomon Islands was obligated to provide armed security at its international airports as well as for visiting dignitaries.

The team further explained that rearming of the three units in the RSIPF could not be expected to end criminal activities in Solomon Islands – no country in the world was without crime. Community members in the country had the responsibility to assist the police and work with them to prevent and deter anti-social behaviours and criminal activities.

The team also advised that the government will not immediately reinstate firearms licenses to private citizens, but this could be something for consideration in the future. The government had begun compensating the privately licensed firearms which were confiscated and destroyed on the arrival of RAMSI in 2003. Those affected would be expected to produce evidence of their license and receipt of collection of the firearm.

Community consultations on the limited rearmament of the RSIPF will continue with other provinces not consulted so far.