The Special Coordinator of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, Ms Justine Braithwaite visited the Western Provincial capital of Gizo on 31 October 2014. During the visit Ms Braithwaite met representatives of the provincial government, the Western Provincial Council of Women, the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) and the Solomon Islands Correctional Services.
“Since becoming RAMSI Special Coordinator, it has been a priority for me to pay an official visit to Western Province. This is especially since RAMSI still maintains a presence of Participating Police Force (PPF) officers there, who are assisting the RSIPF in Gizo,” said Ms Braithwaite.
The Special Coordinator further noted: “I was very pleased to meet the Deputy Premier of Western Province, Mr Wayne Maepio, and to hear directly from him about the provincial government’s activities and challenges.”
“I was glad also to be able to visit Gizo in the lead up to national elections. The Deputy Premier and I had a very useful discussion around security for the elections across Western Province. The RSIPF is leading operations to ensure the elections are free, fair and peaceful, and RAMSI’s PPF are here to support them with that both in Western Province and across the nation,” said Ms Braithwaite.
Ms Braithwaite took the opportunity to brief the Deputy Premier on RAMSI’s priorities after becoming a policing mission in July 2013. At that time, following a process of “transition”, RAMSI’s military troops withdraw peacefully from the country and the mission’s civilian development programs in economic and public sector governance, and in law and justice, shifted across to the Australian High Commission and other donors.
Ms Braithwaite confirmed that RAMSI is now working with the local police to deliver a four-year program of substantial capacity development assistance to the RSIPF, which will run until 2017. Capacity development priorities include leadership training and development; community policing; mobility infrastructure and logistics; and national emergency and disaster response.
The RAMSI Special Coordinator also highlighted to Western Provincial Deputy Premier, Mr Maepio that one of the priority projects that the Mission is assisting with is the implementation of the Solomon Islands Government’s decision for a staged limited rearmament of the RSIPF.
In October 2013, the Government made the decision to prepare the RSIPF for limited rearmament, and authorised RAMSI to put in place the necessary training, infrastructure, accountability, policy and governance arrangements.
Ms Braithwaite told the Deputy Premier of Western Province that “a major part of the limited rearmament project is a nation-wide community consultation process which has started in Honiara and which will go out to the provinces, including Western Province, next year.”
During her visit to Gizo, the RAMSI Special Coordinator also met with the newly appointed Western Provincial Police Commander, Chief Superintendent, George Guna and members of the Western Provincial Council of Women Executive including the President, Ms Rendy Solomon. Discussions focused on RAMSI priorities, security during the upcoming elections as well as efforts by the RSIPF and RAMSI PPF to advocate against gender-based and family violence.
Ms Braithwaite was also shown the new Gizo Correctional Centre by the Solomon Islands Correctional Services Commandant for Western Province, Mr Timothy Haununu and a representative of the contractor, Reeves International.
“This new correctional centre has been a long-standing commitment for RAMSI and it has experienced many issues and challenges. But the facility is now nearing completion and when finished, it will comply with UN Minimum Standards for the treatment of prisoners.”
The Gizo Correctional Centre is expected to be opened in the first quarter of next year.
You can view more photos from the Special Coordinator’s visit to Gizo in our Galleries here.