The Rennell-Bellona Provincial Assembly is the latest group to express support for the Government decision for the staged limited rearmament of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF).
This follows a presentation on the project to members of the Renbel Provincial Assembly by a team comprising of representatives of the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services; RSIPF and the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) during a meeting in Honiara on 8 May 2015.
Speaking during the discussions that followed the presentation, Renbel Provincial Premier, Colin Tesuatai said: “My province supports the rearmament of the RSIPF and we don’t need to question this decision too much as it has been discussed as far back as 2009 when the Force was talking about what will it do when RAMSI leaves.”
“I support the limited rearmament of the RSIPF because there are still a lot of firearms out in the communities despite the destruction of firearms after RAMSI arrived in Solomon Islands in 2003. Police must be armed to protect themselves and members of the community against the use of these illegal firearms,” Premier Tesuatai said.
“Also because of the availability of firearms during the social unrest in the country everyone, even kids can now handle firearms. This is dangerous. Before that it was only the licensed holders were able to use firearms.”
Renbel Premier Tesuatai also argued that with the growth of terrorism around the world, “I believe Solomon Islands could be used as a transit point. This is dangerous. RSIPF must be rearmed.”
“Discipline in the RSIPF started to go down way back in 1996-97. To bring back discipline among the Force we need to look at the attitude, culture and influences on the Officers. We need to tackle these issues because if we don’t then we might see a repeat of what happened during the social unrest,” Premier Tesuatai suggested.
The Team representing the Ministry of Police, RSIPF and RAMSI explained that the RSIPF is a very different police force today than it was during the period of the social unrest. More than 70 per cent of the offices have been recruited after the unrest. The recruitment has also taken into consideration the different provinces and ethnic backgrounds as well as gender balance.
It was also highlighted that the RSIPF has strengthened its accountability and disciplinary procedures and has benefited from more than a decade of extensive and capacity development by RAMSI.
RAMSI has also focused on setting up safeguards and strict regulations around the rearmament of the RSIPF. Any officer found to be misusing a weapon, not following correct procedure or abusing their position as armed police officers will be dealt with strictly according to Solomon Islands law.
The public is urged to have confidence in the new leadership of the RSIPF and in the systems being set up surrounding the limited rearmament of the Force which meets the same standards as in Australia.
Other issues raised during the discussions included security at the common border with Papua New Guinea, a need for balance in recruitment into the RSIPF reflecting the different provincial and ethnic groups in the country and the need for the Government to address issues such as land disputes and strengthening the justice system.
Following the presentation and question and answer session, the Premier and Members of the Renbel Provincial Assembly expended their support towards the decision by the Government for the staged limited rearmament of the RSIPF.
The staged limited rearmament of the RSIPF will include only three units within the Force. This includes the Police Response Unit (PRT), the Close Personal Protection (CPP) Unit and police providing security at the Henderson international airport. The Cabinet has to approve each stage of the project before proceeding to the next stage. The project is at its first stage which includes training, construction of infrastructure, identification of suitable weapons for the RSIPF, development of governance the community consultation.