Prime Minister, Hon. Sogavare impressed with rearmament training

Prime Minister, Hon. Manasseh Sogavare, MP on 16 March 2016 reviewed the firearms training undertaken by the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) Close Personal Protection unit, which provides security to the sitting Prime Minister and other VIPs that visit Solomon Islands. The firearms training was undertaken at the Tenaru Firing Range, east of Honiara.

Prime Minister Sogavare applauded the skill and discipline of the close personal protection officers. He said, “I am impressed. I feel very, very safe now”.

Currently, RSIPF officers, including those in the close personal protection team, do not carry or have access to firearms when they exercise their day-to-day duties as policemen and policewomen. Only RAMSI officers are permitted to carry weapons in Solomon Islands.

The weapons training observed by the Prime Minister was provided by the RAMSI Participating Police Force (PPF) under very strict conditions and is consistent with a 2013 decision by the Government to consider re-arming the police following community consultations and once the Government is convinced the officers have been trained to a very high standard.

Pistol training for members of the close personal protection unit commenced in September 2015, along with training that underlines that firearms should only be used as a last resort.

The Police Response Team (PRT) has received similar training.

The firearms training is part of a SIG plan to rearm the RSIPF in a staged and limited manner. It is ‘staged’ because each stage must be approved by SIG, and it is ‘limited’ because only three specialist functions – the Police Response Team (PRT) the Close Personal Protection unit and police providing security at the Henderson international airport will be re-armed. Other RSIPF officers will not be armed.

Rearming police officers before RAMSI leave is important so that the RSIPF can safely and effectively protect communities, police the nation’s borders and waters, safeguard VIPs, and destroy crocodiles.

The firearms training package builds on previous training provided by RAMSI during 2014 and 2015 on less-than-lethal use of force options (e.g. hand-held gas canisters), which included “train the trainer” courses.