Solomon Islands' Western Provincial govt appreciates RAMSI's support

The Western Provincial Executive and people of the province have expressed deep appreciation for the work done by the advisers of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) Participating Police Force (PPF) alongside members of the Royal Solomon Islands Police (RSIPF) in the province since RAMSI arrived in 2003.

The sentiments were expressed by members of the Western Provincial Executive and members of the public in Gizo on 29 April 2016 during meetings with senior RAMSI and RSIPF officers.  The meetings were to discuss PPF plans to withdraw its two Gizo-based advisers  to Honiara in the coming months as part of RAMSI’s ongoing drawdown and ahead of its scheduled departure from Solomon Islands in June 2017.

During the meetings, RAMSI Special Coordinator Quinton Devlin and Commander PPF Mark Ney explained that the RSIPF was ready to stand on its own and it had been operating for over two years with very little frontline assistance from RAMSI.

Mr Devlin said: “The police had grown from strength to strength. In the Western Province, the police were under the command of an effective provincial police commander (PPC) and local officers have the necessary skills, tools and training to perform their duties. They do not need daily mentoring support from RAMSI.”

The Special Coordinator emphasised that: “Although we plan to withdraw the two Gizo-based advisers, RAMSI will continue to visit the Western Province regularly and we will continue to assist and advise the RSIPF in Gizo whenever our help is sought.”

Commander PPF Mark Ney confirmed that, “Nearly 100 percent of policing in Solomon Islands is now done by the RSIPF. The RSIPF is fully in charge of security in the country. The PPF only becomes involved when the RSIPF requests us to assist.”

“A good example is the current patrol of the common border with Papua New Guinea. RAMSI is not involved in the patrol. The RSIPF is in charge and is working closely with other law enforcement and border protection agencies to secure the border area,” he said.

Commander Ney added: “Today RAMSI is helping the RSIPF to deal with issues that all police forces face around the world – issues such as standards, leadership and capability development.”

The Assistant Commissioner of Police responsible for Provincial Policing, Jack Balaga, told Gizo residents that the RSIPF thanked the current PPF advisers and their predecessors for increasing the capacity of the officers in Western Province.

“We should view the planned withdrawal of the PPF advisers from Gizo as an opportunity. Pulling back the advisers to Honiara gives the provincial police commander and his officers the opportunity to look at the way they do their work. If there are areas that need improvement, then RAMSI can assist while it is still with us,” said Mr Balaga.

Mr Balaga assured those present that: “The RSIPF is ready to deliver policing services to the people of this country.  The work is challenging, but with all the RAMSI-supported capacity building, leadership training, the new policing crime prevention strategy, the availability of equipment and logistics, increased budgetary support from the Solomon Islands Government and the public’s growing confidence in the country’s police force, the RSIPF is confident that it will be able to maintain law and order as RAMSI prepares to exit and long after it goes.”

Speaking during the meeting with the Western Provincial Executive and at the public forum, Deputy Western Provincial Premier, Hon. Wayne Maepio, thanked RAMSI for its support in Western Province and assured RAMSI contributing nations that the friendship would continue long after RAMSI left.

“I am encouraged by the assurance from the RSIPF that it is ready to take over tomorrow should RAMSI leave. It makes me feel safe. I also thank the Solomon Islands Government for increasing its budgetary support to RSIPF so that there will be no gap left when RAMSI leaves,” said Hon Maepio.

“We are also encouraged by the fight against corruption within the RSIPF. This will increase the trust in the police force.”

During the meetings in Gizo, members of the Western Provincial Executive and members of the public who contributed to discussions urged the Solomon Islands Government and RSIPF to focus more on the security along the border with Papua New Guinea.