PRIME Minister Manasseh Sogavare urges Solomon Islanders to come to terms and accept the fact that some of our police officers will be now armed.
Speaking at the ceremony to launch the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) limited rearmament on Monday, Mr Sogavare said rearmament is an issue that “we as a country and people must come to terms with”.
“That moment has come and as people we must accept the hard fact that as member of the international community of nations Solomon Islands must move on and function as a country with sovereign rights to make sovereign decisions,” Mr Sogavare said.
“The past should not be discarded and abandoned or forgotten altogether; but it should serve as a reminder on how to move into the future.
“In this connection, for our country Solomon Islands, those dark days must continue to serve as a constant reminder to us that the use of weapons in an unlawful manner will not only bring despair and destruction but to the eventual downfall of society.
“Therefore, this particular occasion, today, is about tomorrow.
“It is the beginning of a long, arduous and sensitive journey of confidence building.
“It is the beginning of the last hope that our people will have on the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force as an institution that can be trusted with the security of this nation,” Mr Sogavare said yesterday.
He said though yesterday marks a new chapter in the history of our beloved country, it must not be forgotten that some 16 years ago, the RSIPF have come through a major challenge in terms of its capability to properly maintain law and order in this country.
“It was during this time, the issue of firearms were at the centre of various hardships faced by this country.
“The wrongful use of firearms was at the core of the reasons why our people lost total confidence on the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force as custodian of the duty to protect the citizens of this country.
“It is also important to note by way of qualifying this statement that it was the action of certain factions of the force, responding to the way the government of the day handled issues that have national security implications that allowed the nation to go down that path.”
Mr Sogavare said the force had to come through a painful experience to regain that confidence.
He said it is therefore an achievement that we as a country cannot take lightly.
“Every member of the discipline force has a duty of care to each other in this regard.
“By the same token, the Solomon Islands Government also has a duty of care not to place the force in a situation where it is forced to compromise its position of trust,” he said.
“Now that we have regained that confidence, we have a duty to ensure that we maintain the people’s confidence in the force and by extension the government.
“That responsibility lies squarely on the shoulder of each and every police officer who will be entrusted with the use of firearms in the discharge of their official duty.
“Since the arrival of RAMSI, the issue of rearmament has been at the epicentre of discussions of our nation for some time.
Mr Sogavare continued “not all have been supportive of this initiative and I can say for sure that we all know why.”
“Our people have since attributed the issue of arms to the downfall of this nation, as an icon for despair and destruction.
“But as much as we would like to erase the past; we cannot.
“But life is an unwritten script and continuous journey, and therefore, at some point in our lives, we must be able to either personally and or collectively, make the conscious decision to move on in life or be forever burdened with the past.
He told the 125 officers from the Police Response Team and Close Personal Protection (CPP) team that “it is an acid test to demonstrate to the people of Solomon Islands that the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force has indeed fully reformed and can once again be called the discipline force because that it is what they are”.
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN