Temotu Provincial Government, community members living in the provincial capital Lata and students at nearby secondary schools have been briefed on the Government’s intention to conduct the staged limited rearmament of the Royal Solomon Islands Police (RSIPF).
A team consisting of representatives from the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services; the RSIPF and the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) was in Lata from 20 – 21 October for community consultations on the project. The team also provided briefing on the RAMSI Drawdown including the dialogue that is underway with the national government on future assistance to the RSIPF after RAMSI exits in mid-2017.
During the consultations a meeting was held with the Temotu Provincial Premier, Hon. Nelson Menale, members of his provincial executive and Assembly and provincial administration staff. A meeting was also held for members of the community at the Lata Market. Some members of the team also held meetings with several hundred students and staff at the Monene and Lata Community High Schools and the Luesalemba Provincial High School.
During the consultation meetings, there was strong support expressed for the Government’s decision to prepare to rearm three areas of the RSIPF.
“It is wisdom by our national government to rearm the RSIPF. No nation can stand without security. My people have agreed to the rearmament of the RSIPF. We would like to thank RAMSI because if it was not for its intervention we would be a chaotic state today,” said Premier Menale.
Some members of the public who spoke during the consultations at the Lata Market pointed out that they do not like guns but support rearmament of the RSIPF. They did so not because of the withdrawal of RAMSI, but because they believed that there was an increase in criminal activity.
Whilst there was good support for the staged limited rearmament of the RSIPF, members of the Temotu Provincial Government and Assembly, and members of the public raised some issues for consideration by the national government in its implementation of the project. Some of the questions and issues raised include:
- What is the legal redress against any RSIPF officer who misuses firearms?
- Is Solomon Islands, as a country, ready for the rearmament of the RSIPF?
- There was understanding of the need for a staged rearmament of the RSIPF but some people believed that the next stage should be to rearm the whole of the force;
- Given other security issues such as terrorism, rearmament of the RSIPF should not be just at a regional standard but should meet an international standard.
When responding to some of the questions and issues raised, representatives of the Ministry of Police, RSIPF and RAMSI explained that when any officer discharges their weapon, that officer would have to justify his or her actions. The officer could be charged and prosecuted or otherwise subjected to the law if they could not justify the use of force, to defend themselves or the community. Furthermore there will be strict control measures for accessing weapons and weapons will not be issued without a valid reason or justification.
RSIPF personnel in the three areas to be rearmed are well-trained to deal with any threat and should be able to deal any issue including threats involving higher powered weapons. The types of weapons selected for the three areas were chosen to meet the current operational requirements of the RSIPF.
RAMSI is assisting the RSIPF under the Stabicraft (medium range maritime patrol vessel) project which will improve mobility to the outer islands and support officers investigating crimes. Communications between Honiara and provincial centres like Lata will also be improved through RAMSI Participating Police Force support for Satellite ground stations which will see the RSIPF connected to the government computer network (SIG-Connect). This will improve reporting, intelligence sharing and general communications between Honiara and the provinces.
These final meetings in Lata concluded the community consultations on the staged limited rearmament of the RSIPF in provincial centres. The RSIPF Provincial Police Commanders will continue the consultations during their normal community policing outreach in rural communities.