Community leader supports staged limited rearmament of RSIPF

A community leader in Honiara supports the decision of the Solomon Islands Government (SIG) to approve a staged limited rearmament of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF).

Pastor David Komasi of the Assembly of God Gateway Church in the Alligator Creek community, East Honiara expressed his support for the limited rearmament during community consultations held at his church on Sunday 12 April 2015.

Pastor Komasi said, “During some of the incidences in our communities, I felt sorry for our police as they do not have the right equipment to confront criminal elements. I support the decision by our government to rearm some units within the RSIPF for the safety of the officers themselves as well as members of the communities.”

He added, “The community usually calls on the police to come and help but sometimes it’s too dangerous for them to come and assist.  Police officers are not perfect but it does not mean that we sit back and do nothing. I support this decision by the Government to rearm the police. I am hopeful that the project will succeed,”

During this consultation, questions were also raised about whether the RSIPF Maritime Unit will be armed, as its responsibility is to maintain the integrity of the Solomon Islands borders and police illegal fishing within the country’s borders.

In response, a representative of the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services, Morris Maitaki explained: “Due to the sensitivity in use of the patrol boats during the country’s social unrest, the RSIPF Marine Unit has not been included in the first three units that will be rearmed. But as this is a staged rearmament, consideration could be given to rearming the Unit in the future.”

Maitaki emphasied: “The decision to rearm our police is not a RAMSI decision but a decision that of Solomon Islands Government.”

“After the Solomon Islands Police Act was passed in 2013 and came into force last year, the Government had requested that RAMSI now do everything possible to prepare the RSIPF for the limited reintroduction of lethal firearms. RAMSI cannot stay in Solomon Islands forever and it is important that the RSIPF be ready to take up the full range of security obligations required of a sovereign police force,” said Mr Maitaki.

Michael Walburn of the RAMSI Participating Police Force, explained that as part of their training under the limited rearmament project, members of the RSIPF Police Response Team  also undergo training in operating at sea as they will be required to undertake border duties if the need arises. He also explained that the limited rearmament project is a complex one and due to this, a comprehensive approach has been taken.

“There are seven work streams that all operate to achieve the overall project goals. This includes firearms selection, infrastructure, training, governance, monitoring and evaluation, change management and community consultation,” said Mr Walburn

Inspector Luke Vaikawi of RSIPF told members of the Gateway Church congregation: “The RSIPF needs to be rearmed to enforce law and order in Solomon Islands, to protect communities, life and property, and to protect officers themselves.”

He also added, “The RSIPF also needs to fulfil the national security requirements of Solomon Islands, provide protection to dignitaries and VIPs, fulfil an international requirement that all international airports must maintain an armed security presence as well as manage crocodiles in the country.”

He emphasised: “The RSIPF is ready to be rearmed. The RSIPF is a very different police force today than it was during the tension period. Between 70 to 80 percent of its officers have been recruited after the Tension and RSIPF has benefited from over a decade of extensive and rigorous capacity development from RAMSI.”

Community consultation on the staged limited rearmament of the RSIPF is a major component of the project that was approved by the SIG in 2013. These consultations commenced last year, with discussions held with various groups and communities in and around Honiara. Recently, the community consultations have begun covering the provinces.

It is a “staged limited rearmament” as each stage of the project has to be approved by SIG and the rearmament is only limited to three Units of the RSIPF namely the Police Response Team (PRT), the Close Personal Protection Unit (CPP) and police providing security at the Henderson international airport

As part of the implementation of the project, the Government wants to hear the views of the people in Solomon Islands and has requested the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services, the RSIPF and RAMSI to conduct community consultations throughout the country.

The community consultations team on the Staged Limited Rearmament of the RSIPF is scheduled to hold several meetings with the Isabel Provincial Assembly and communities at the Isabel Provincial capital Buala 15 – 17 March 2015.