Communities in and around Horabau village in the Weathercoast of Guadalcanal Province on 16 March 2016 had the opportunity to discuss the staged limited rearmament of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF).
Representatives of 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) heard from over 60 community leaders and members of the public including women.
Rearming police officers before RAMSI leave will mean the RSIPF can safely and effectively protect communities, police the nation’s borders and waters, safeguard VIPs, and manage crocodiles.
The clear messages and themes arising from the discussions in Horabau were:
- The communities around Horabau appreciated the visit and opportunity to learn about the rearmament process;
- Participants understood clearly the reasons why the government wished to rearm three specialist functions within the RSIPF;
- People in the Horabau and surrounding areas were not in a position to support limited rearmament until reconciliation processes in the Weathercoast were finalised.
- The people present at the community consultation meeting would need to consult further with chiefs, women and youth, especially their highland people, before they provided a final view on the limited rearmament project.
The results of this and other community consultations on the staged limited rearmament of the RSIPF will be an important consideration in the Solomon Islands Government’s (SIG) decision to re-arm the RSIPF. The consultations started in 2014 and have been held across the country. This is the third time that consultations have occurred in the Weathercoast region.
The clear majority of Solomon Islanders support ‘staged and limited rearmament’ of the RSIPF if appropriate safeguards are in place.
The project is described as a ‘staged limited rearmament’ because each stage must be approved by SIG, and rearmament is limited to three specialist functions of the RSIPF – the Police Response Team (PRT), Close Personal Protection Unit (CPP), and armed police at the Henderson international airport. Other police including the RSIPF patrol boats and maritime unit, will not be rearmed.
At the request of SIG, the RAMSI Participating Police Force (PPF) has been providing training to selected members of the specialist police units since 2014 on the responsible use of police firearms. RAMSI has also helped the RSIPF to develop strict rules and procedures to govern an armoury and the issuing and safe-keeping of police firearms.