The Choiseul Provincial Government and members of the Provincial Assembly have been briefed on the staged limited rearmament of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) during a full meeting of the Assembly in the provincial capital Taro on 30 September 2015.
A team consisting of representatives of the RSIPF and the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands provided the briefing as part of the community consultation on the decision by the national government to consider rearming the Police Response Team (PRT), the Close Personal Protection Unit (CPP) and the Aviation Police within the Force.
The team also consulted with the 400 students and teachers at the Choiseul Bay Provincial Secondary School and vendors at the Taro market
Following the briefing and several hours of questions and discussions on the project, the Choiseul Provincial Premier, Hon. Jackson Kiloe summed up as follows:
“There is consensus among members of the Choiseul Provincial Assembly that we support the staged limited rearmament of the RSIPF but the reservations we have expressed are because of our experiences as a border province on the effects of the Bougainville Crisis. We experienced the effects of military arms during that crisis. And then our experiences as a result of the ethnic tension in our own country,” said Premier Kiloe.
“We need to hear that the wider community has confidence in their police but at the same time policing needs the support of the community, the national and provincial government. We all have a role in protecting law and order in our communities but unfortunately resources are never enough,” said Hon. Kiloe.
Other Assembly members pointed out as a sovereign country, Solomon Islands needs to be rearmed. RAMSI cannot stay forever. The country should be proud of those officers of the RSIPF who stood firm during the ethnic tension.
Despite the support expressed by members of the Choiseul Provincial Assembly, teachers, students and teachers at the Choiseul Bay Provincial Secondary School as well as market vendors at Taro, they raised several issues and questions for the Government’s consideration. These included:
- The need for the national government to implement the Townsville Peace Agreement (TPA).
- Why is there only consideration being given to policing weapons for the three units of the RSIPF that the government wants rearmed when there are military firearms across the common border with Papua New Guinea?
- There is a lack of confidence and trust in some officers of the RSIPF. RAMSI has done a very good job in the past twelve years and we expect this to continue after the Mission has left.
- It seems that the three units earmarked for rearmament will only protect Honiara and not the rest of the country. Consideration must be given to the posting of some PRT members in the provinces and arming all members of the RSIPF.
- Given the culture of compensation in Solomon Islands, will compensation be paid to the family of anyone who is shot by a member of the RSIPF?
- The mindset of people led to the tension which affected Solomon Islands. The fear is that after RAMSI leaves, RSIPF officers in the units proposed for rearming will be influenced by wantoks.
- How secure is the new armoury? Will there also be armouries in the provinces?
In response to the questions and issues raised, the team representing the RSIPF and RAMSI explained that implementation of the demands in the TPA are a responsibility of the national government. The current community consultation on a draft Federal Constitution for Solomon Islands is part of the implementation of the TPA demands.
The government in deciding to rearm the RSIPF wants to start with just the three units and consideration will be given to extending it to other units in the Force in the future depending on the implementation of the current project.
The PRT which will be stationed in Honiara will be deployed to any part of the country should the need arise.
The shooting of anyone by a member of the three units being proposed to be rearmed will be investigated thoroughly. Police will follow strict rules when using firearms which will only be used as a last resort. The use of firearms will have to be justified according to the RSIPF’s firearms policy.
The RSIPF together with other Government agencies like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Quarantine have established dialogue with their counter parts in Papua New Guinea to set up designated entry points on both sides of the Solomon Islands – PNG common border in order to address illegal movement of people and firearms moving across the border.
Representatives of the RSIPF and RAMSI explained that 70 to 80 per cent of the current Force has been recruited after the tension. The RSIPF’s focus on crime prevention would see police officers engaging more with communities and help strengthen public trust and confidence in the force.
The team advised further that the training undertaken by officers in the three Units to be rearmed is of the highest standards and includes training enabling officers to make sound decisions during crisis situations. Those officers who did not meet the high standards of training would not continue in the limited rearmament program.
A high security system will be set up at the new Armoury being constructed at the Rove Police Headquarters in Honiara to secure against unauthorised access to weapons. Extensive governance arrangements were also being developed.
The community consultations on the staged limited rearmament of the RSIPF will continue in the weeks ahead with meetings being planned for Temotu Province and certain parts of Guadalcanal which are yet to be covered.