Dear Editor – I refer to a recent SIBC news bulletin and an article published in your newspaper in connection with police preparedness for the upcoming general election in November and former and currently serving police officers, presumably ex-members of the National Reconnaissance and Surveillance Force (NRSF), who have waited for 16 years for their border allowances to be paid by the government.
I would be appreciative if allowed to comment.
In respect of the police preparedness for the general election, the following paragraphs were included in the SIBC bulletin:
“Meanwhile, the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force will tomorrow conduct a Public Order Management demonstration in efforts to upgrade its response capability for this year’s General Elections.
“The demonstration will include live ammunition drills and is an exercise to prepare police response capabilities across the country.”
I would sincerely hope that the writer of that particular piece did not mean to say the police would be firing live ammunition in their exercises at Hells Point with a view to using live ammunition in future police deployments involving public order management.
The firing of live ammunition is contrary to the international norms on the use of minimum force and is only used as a last resort.
The last incident of the use of live ammunition fired by two Tongan members deployed with RAMSI allegedly resulted in the death of a former police officer at Titinge in late 2010 and to-date there has been no official result of the police investigation conducted into that fatality, or an inquest held.
If the RSIPF is to be re-armed then all alternative methods of less lethal arms control must be investigated and acquired and nobody, I am sure, wants to see the RSIPF not adhering strictly to the international rules of intervention.
It is my understanding that the Cabinet has approved the outstanding border payments to the officers but the money due is unlikely to be paid this year and most likely to be paid by installments next year.
Clearly the police officers have expressed their dissatisfaction over the long delayed response to their border allowance claims and it can only have added to their frustration when it was announced in the media just a few days ago (and broadcast in bulletins by Radio New Zealand International) that:
“On the eve of elections the 50 MPs in Solomon Islands are being given individual payouts of more than 53,000 US dollars through an irreversible error by the Parliamentary Entitlements Commission.
“The payment is a 300 percent increase from that received by MPs just before the last election four years ago when they got just over 13,400 US dollars.”
I do hope the government will make early budgetary provision to pay the retired and serving police officers their border allowances in accordance with pledges made to them.
As I was initially involved in their border deployments I feel I have a duty to give them support.