People living in the Western Province have expressed support for the staged limited rearmament of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) being proposed by the Solomon Islands Government (SIG).
The support was expressed during community consultations on the project held at Gizo by a delegation made up of representatives of the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services; the RSIPF and the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) on 21 March 2016.
The delegation met with the Western Provincial Supervising Premier, Hon. Malloney Lopoto and Provincial Speaker, Richard Tekifono; about 200 members of the public from the nearby islands, including students from the Kukundu Adventist College on Kolombangara, and a separate meeting with community and women leaders nearby villages.
Aside from the discussions on the staged limited rearmament of the RSIPF, the delegation also briefed the meetings on initiatives being implemented by the Force, including the Crime Prevention Strategy, the Family Protection Act as well as efforts to improve standards and discipline within RSIPF. The same issues were discussed during a muster of RSIPF officers at the Gizo Police station.
During the various meetings, the people who contributed to the discussions, supported the staged limited rearmament of the RSIPF because their trust and confidence in the Force is growing.
While expressing support, the people in and around Gizo asked the Government to consider the following issues as the staged limited rearmament proceeded:
- the physical fitness of RSIPF officers, not just their capacity to use the firearms, so they could deal with criminal elements;
- The responsiveness of the armed RSIPF units to calls for assistance;
- The discipline of the members of the RSIPF; and
- Stationing the armed police in Gizo or along the common border with Papua New Guinea given the intermittent presence of individuals in border communities with access to firearms.
The results of this and other community consultations on the staged limited rearmament of the RSIPF will be an important consideration in the SIG’s decision to re-arm the RSIPF. The consultations started in 2014 and have been held across the country. This is the second time that consultations have been held in the Western Province.
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(CPP), and armed police at the Henderson international airport. Other police including the RSIPF patrol boats and maritime unit, will not be rearmed as part of this project.
At the request of SIG, the RAMSI PPF has been providing training to selected members of the specialist police units since 2014 including on the responsible use of police firearms. RAMSI has also helped the RSIPF to develop strict policy and procedures to govern an armoury and the issuing and safe-keeping of police firearms.