The Guadalcanal Provincial Executive and members of the provincial assembly are the latest group to express support for the National Government’s decision for the staged limited rearmament of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF).
This followed a presentation on the project by representatives of the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services; RSIPF, and the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) during a Guadalcanal provincial executive meeting in Honiara on Thursday.
Guadalcanal Provincial Premier, Batholomew Vavanga told the meeting: “We support the decision to rearm certain units in the RSIPF given the reasons explained. We thank the Government for taking the initiative to rearm the police. But as expressed by some members of my Executive and the some ordinary members of the province, the issue of concern is the reconciliation process that has been put in place by the National Government.”
Other issues raised during the meeting included the need for:
· There are RSIPF officers who they believed were involved in the ethnic tension but still in the Force;
· RSIPF to rebuild the confidence and trust that members of the communities have in the Force as well as be more disciplined;
· A permanent presence of the RSIPF at the common border region with Papua New Guinea in the light of the recent incidents in the Shortland Islands, Western Province, with armed people from Bougainville coming across the border;
· The collection of firearms that are believed to be still in the hands of some people even after the gun amnesty declared after the arrival of RAMSI in Solomon Islands in 2003.
In response to the issue of reconciliation, the community consultation team on the staged limited rearmament of the RSIPF explained that the SIG through the Ministry of National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace has put in motion a reconciliation process which started with a solovisu ceremony at Peochakuri in December 2013. It is also committed to include trauma counselling for those affected in the ethnic tension. The team assured the Guadalcanal Provincial Assembly that the reconciliation issues raised will be included in their report to the government.
The team also urged members of the Guadalcanal Provincial Assembly to report to the RSIPF any officers who they believed were involved in the ethnic tension but still remain in the Force.
Members of the Guadalcanal Provincial Assembly considered the merits of a further gun amnesty as a way to get people to surrender firearms which they alleged were still in the communities.
Since the community consultation on the staged limited rearmament of the RSIPF began towards the end of 2014, support has been expressed by the Western, Isabel Makira and Renbel provinces and communities as well as organisations in and around Honiara. The consultation team has also made presentations to several thousand students and youth during the two Youth Markets held in Honiara in April and May this year. The community consultation team is planning to consult with the Choiseul, Malaita, Central and Temotu provincial assemblies as well as the Weathercoast region of Guadalcanal in the coming weeks.
The staged limited rearmament of the RSIPF will start with three units in the Force including the Police Response Team (PRT), the Close Personal Protection Unit (CPP) and the police providing security at the Henderson international airport. Phase one of the project, which is currently underway, comprises of training for the three Units, and construction of necessary infrastructure including a firing range as well as an armoury.
At the end of phase one, which also includes the community consultations, the Government will make a decision on phase two which includes the selection of the types of police weapons to be used by the selected units in the RSIPF. The Commissioner of RSIPF has identified weapons that he believes will meet the future needs of the Force and has engaged the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services to consider them at the appropriate time.
– RAMSI Media Unit