Many of the over 1,000 daily visitors to the Yam Cultural Festival held at Pululaha Village, near Afio Substation in Small Malaita between 24 and 27 July 2016 participated in the community engagement sessions organised by the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) Community Policing Unit from Auki and supported by the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).
The sessions included presentations on the impacts of kwaso and marijuana on communities, family violence and the Family Protection Act, RSIPF limited rearmament, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, preparations for RAMSI departure in June 2017 and the RSIPF Crime Prevention Strategy.
“The RSIPF and RAMSI stall at the Festival was packed daily with visitors that came to listen and ask questions on the security and policing issues covered during the joint RSIPF/ RAMSI presentations. The views expressed in the southern region of Malaita were not different to those shared by similar communities in the remoter parts of Solomon Islands,” said Mr Masi Lomaloma, the RAMSI Assistant Special Coordinator.
Mr Lomaloma added: “This was a wonderful opportunity to update communities in Small Malaita and we (RSIPF and RAMSI) are thankful to the Yam Cultural Festival Organizing Committee for allowing us to be part of the four days of celebrations, during which we were able to reach out to lots of people.”
Local confidence in the RSIPF was boosted when RSIPF officers explained that the new policing model recognised that crime prevention and security are collective responsibilities involving a partnership between the people and the police and that, when the Crime Prevention Strategy is implemented fully, communities would see themselves as part of the crime prevention and security team, not mere spectators or bystanders.
In response to questions from the community, the representatives of RSIPF and RAMSI also explained there are many factors that currently hamper an immediate police response, ranging from distance to limited police resources. However, the officers said this would improve because an increase in the Government’s budget allocation to the RSIPF has allowed more police to be recruited this year, the police are becoming more professional in the delivery of police services, and RAMSI has been providing the necessary tools and infrastructure, such as a police communications centre and Stabicraft police boats. Members of the public were encouraged to report crimes to the police, including the involvement of the police in any misconduct.
On the national government’s plans for limited rearmament of the RSIPF, it was explained that a stringent world-class training regime for carefully-selected specialist police officers has been implemented by RAMSI and a robust governance policy developed for the issuing of firearms. A final decision has not yet been made by the Cabinet to rearm the police, but that time is approaching. The recent official opening of the National Response Department facility, which includes a high-security armoury, at Rove in Honiara was part of the limited rearmament project. The members of the public were assured that their concerns about the need for appropriate safeguards have been taken on board to ensure that there is no repeat of what happened during the Tensions period.
The RSIPF and RAMSI officers expressed confidence that the country would not return to the situation prior to RAMSI’s arrival in 2003 and that the RSIPF was ready to be fully responsible for the security of the country after RAMSI leaves in June 2017. In fact, the RSIPF was already maintaining law and order in the country without any frontline RAMSI assistance.
The RSIPF and RAMSI will continue the community engagement in other parts of the country in the coming months ahead of RAMSI’s departure in June 2017.