The Malaita Provincial Executive and members of the Malaita Provincial Assembly have expressed support for the decision by the National Government for a staged limited rearmament of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.
This followed a presentation on the project by representatives of the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Service; the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) and the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) to the Malaita Provincial Premier, Hon. Peter Ramohia, some members of his Executive and some members of the Provincial Assembly in Auki on 11 August 2015.
Towards the end of 2013, the National Government mandated 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) to work towards rearming certain units of the RSIPF.
The staged limited rearmament of the RSIPF will start with three units in the Force including the Police Response Team (PRT), the Close Personal Protection Unit (CPP) and the police providing security at the Henderson international airport. Phase one of the project, which is currently underway, includes training for the three Units, and construction of necessary infrastructure including a firing range as well as an armoury.
At the end of phase one, which also incorporates community consultations, the Government will make a decision on phase two which includes the selection of the types of police weapons to be used by the selected units in the RSIPF.
Following the presentation on the project to the Malaita Provincial Assembly, there was strong support expressed for the staged limited rearmament of the RSIPF. Some members of the Malaita Provincial Executive and the Malaita Provincial Executive raised several issues for consideration by the Government including:
- Consideration be given to the type of weapons issued to the necessary RSIPF units for protection against the level of weapons used at the common border with Papua New Guinea as well to deter the illegal fishing inside Solomon Islands 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone;
- Government yet to compensate people whose guns were destroyed on the arrival of RAMSI in 2003;
- The need for the RSIPF to increase the number of police officers stationed at some of the police stations in the provinces and for RAMSI to continue its capacity development of RSIPF members;
- The rearmament of the RSIPF to go ahead whether people are consulted or not as it is justified by the Police Act;
- Certain Police officers who have spent a long time in one particular station to be moved to other stations;
- RSIPF to work together with other necessary government authorities to address some of the illegal activities occurring in Malaita including the high number of unlicensed vehicles on the province’s roads.
In responding to some of the issues raised, the team from the Ministry of Police; RSIPF and RAMSI explained that the weapons to be issued for the specific units are those suited to civilian policing tasks and are not military weapons.
The team explained that police on both side of the Papua New Guinea – Solomon Islands common border are together addressing the issue of weapons on the border.
The RSIPF Commissioner of Police is addressing the issues of shortage and the distribution of police officers in certain police stations in the provinces.
The Ministry of Police is now finalising the budget for the payment of those people who have not been compensated for their guns which were destroyed when RAMSI arrived in 2003.
Although the power to rearm the RSIPF is stipulated in the Police Act, the National Government felt that comprehensive community consultations on the rearmament project were essential because of the sensitivity surrounding the reintroduction of lethal firearms to the police.
The meeting between the Malaita Provincial Assembly and the team from Ministry of Police, RSIPF and RAMSI also discussed the drawdown of RAMSI leading to the possible eventual withdrawal of the Mission in June 2017.
Members of the Assembly noted that the drawdown of PPF officers in Malaita was not a surprise and that it was well known that one day RAMSI would withdraw from Solomon Islands. This reflected the stability of the country and the progress made since 2003 in law and order, economic growth and development.
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 and Guadalcanal 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.