Only certain units within the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force will be re-armed says the Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare at the opening of the new police facility on Wednesday.
The new building for the National Response Department will accommodate a new armoury, an armourer’s workplace, offices for the Police Response team (PRT), Close Personal Protection team (CPPT) and the Explosive Ordinance team (EOT), male and female barracks accommodation and firearm unloading bay.
Mr Sogavare said the Solomon Islands Government and (Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) have agreed that they are re-arming only certain units within the RSIPF.
The units include the Police Response Team, Close Personal Protection Team and Internal Airport Police.
Mr Sogavare said the rest of the RSIPF won’t be bearing arms at least for the immediate foreseeable future.
“I can assure everyone present here, and members of the public and media, church groups, women groups, youths and all citizens, that there is no reason for us to fear RSIPF Officers who will be bearing arms, under the program.
“I want to make it very clear, that the personnel who will be bearing arms have gone through a series of specialised and rigorous training, which requires them to use the arms only when the situation becomes critically necessary.
“In other words they have been trained and disciplined to use these arms for protection and for the sake of maintaining law and order in very critical situations, and only as a last resort.”
The prime minister said RAMSI has been assisting the Police Commissioner to finalise a set of accountability and governance rules and systems to ensure the firearms are handled responsibly and appropriately.
“I am advised that the training in complying with these accountability and governance standards is going well and the selected officers will soon be ready to be armed.
“The training is so strict that those officers who failed to pass the stringent standards have been dropped from these RSIPF Operational Units.
“In keeping with this policy – of a staged, limited rearmament, Cabinet had also recently authorized the purchase of a small number of policing firearms.
“They include pistols, short guns and rifles.”
Mr Sogavare assured the people of Solomon Islands, that these weapons are Police weapon that are used by Police Forces worldwide.
He said once the arms are procured the next and final step is to agree to the carriage and use of the firearms, a decision which only the Cabinet will make when it is absolutely satisfied that all necessary training, storage infrastructure, control systems, and governance arrangements are in place.
He added that he is fully aware of concerns of people around suggestions regarding re-arming our Patrol Boats.
“However, at this stage, we have determined that armed personnel will be deployed with the Patrol Boats only when required.
“As your leader, the Prime Minister I am satisfied with the current work progress of the RSIPF limited rearmament program.
“I strongly believe that the limited rearmament capability designed for the RSIPF is sufficient to make this country safer and enable the Police Force to deal with dangerous and armed offenders.”
He said the completion of the new facility is one of the essential requirements for this rearmament program.
“It is a great relief because what we witnessed today started as a very painful journey.
“It is a moment the people of this country have been looking forward to, in fact over the last 16 years with mixed feelings following what the country had gone through as a result of the assets falling into wrong hands.”
He said what made yesterday’s event significant is the fact that our people had to go through the painful experience of learning to restore the trust and confidence they used to have on an Institution that is established under our laws to look after their security and safety.
“As Government and Leaders, we must accept that there has been a very serious breach of trust.”
Mr Sogavare said of all the activities and programs agreed with RAMSI to return law and order and to restore the economy, the decision to rearm the nation stands out as a single most important decision that the Government and the people of Solomon Islands have had to consented to.
“For the Government and more specially the RSIPF (the agent of the government that is directly entrusted with the responsibility of looking after the safety of our people), we had to start from a position where our very own people have lost total trust and confidence on the entity called the SIG and the RSIPF.
“It is indeed a great relief, thanks to the sacrifices of the brave men and women of the Visiting Contingent and the understandings of our people.”
He said it took more than 10 years to fully convince the people that they can once again trust their Government and the law enforcement agency.
“We have a duty not to allow these assets to fall into the wrong hands.”
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN