Community consultation on limited rearmament of the RSIPF resumes

Community consultation on the decision by the Solomon Islands Government for a staged limited rearmament of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force has resumed this year with a session at Verakambikambi Village in East Guadalcanal on 14th February 2015.

The session was led by representatives of the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services; the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) and the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). It was attended by about 100 people from both Verakambikambi, Konga and Forest Valley Villages in East Guadalcanal.

Speaking at the session, the RSIPF Assistant Commissioner Gabriel Manelusi explained the decision for a staged limited rearmament of the RSIPF was made in 2013 by the former Government of Prime Minister, Gordon Darcy Lilo. The new Government of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare also indicated it supports the staged limited rearmament of the RSIPF when it came into power at the end of last year.

Mr Manelusi explained: “Not all members of the RSIPF will be armed. Only members of the Police Response Team (PRT), the Close Personal Protection (CPP) Unit and the police performing security duties at the Honiara International Airport at Henderson will be armed.”

Representing the Ministry of Police, National Unity and Correctional Services, Mr Morris Maitaki told the consultation session that RAMSI will leave one day, so the Solomon Islands Government believes we must prepare to take care of our own security.

“The decision for a staged rearmament of the RSIPF is a Solomon Islands Government decision and not a decision of RAMSI,” Mr Maitaki said.

Speaking in support of these sentiments, Mick Walburn of the RAMSI Participating Police Force (PPF) told the gathering that the Project is a partnership between the RSIPF and the PPF.

Mr Walburn explained: “It’s a staged rearmament because each stage of the project must be approved by the Solomon Islands Government before we move onto the next stage.  It is only when the Government is satisfied and if RSIPF is ready then we can move to the next stage. At the moment it is in the preparation stage.”

In responding, Chief Benedict Pitu told the gathering that he agreed with the idea of the staged limited rearmament of the three groups including the Police Response Team, the Close Protection Team and the police performing  security duties at the Honiara International Airport at Henderson.

But Mr Pitu told the meeting that the armed police should also be based in the provinces, in the rural areas like AvuAvu and Weather Coast.

“We like the re-introduced rearmament of the three units of the RSIPF,” said Chief Pitu.

Other members of the community who spoke during the meeting pointed out that they wanted RAMSI to remain in the country as it has brought peace and love among the communities on Guadalcanal and other parts of the Solomon Islands.