The former Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare says he supports the appointment of an Australian as his country’s new Police Commissioner.
Frank Prendergast is the new commissioner after a brief period when a Solomon Islands national held the role.
The last Australian to serve as commissioner, Shane Castles, was controversially dismissed in 2007 and barred from returning to Honiara after being seen to interfere in internal politics.
Mr Sogavare, who was the Prime Minister at the time, told Johnny Blades those problems arose mainly from misunderstandings and that they’ve moved on now.
MANASSEH SOGAVARE: We can understand the position taken by Australia that they are very protective of the national interests in Solomon Islands, and we really have no problem with that. Australia’s national interests and security interests in Solomon Islands are same and equal to our national and security interests as well. We will only call on Australia… So that (experience with Shane Castles) is gone now. We can probably place it, brand it as a misunderstanding between us and them. We all learn a lot of lessons from that and move on, understanding each other.
JOHNNY BLADES: What do you think the appointment of Frank Prendergast means as an endorsement of the Royal Solomon Islands police, because the RSIP has obviously been rehabilitated quite a lot since the days of the ethnic tensions, and there seemed to be some confidence in the force, does this seem to undermine that? Are there still factionalisms that are potentially problematic?
MANASSEH SOGAVARE: Yes, we can probably see it that way. As well we need to respect Australia’s very big involvement in restoring law and order, and I think their interest is to see that they consolidate the good work that they’ve done. I don’t think that they’re going to be here forever. At some point in time, we should have a local police commissioner, preferably someone who is not seen as bias towards certain ethnic groupings. That’s a challenge we continue to have in the force where certain factions, ethnic groups have favoured with promotions and given posts… I think with Prendergast’s appointment, we will continue to monitor that kind of negative perception and at some point in time hand it over to a hopefully neutral police commissioner who sees Solomons Islands as a Solomon Islander, not through the eyes of a particular ethnic group
JB: Have you modified your stance on these sorts of things? You were keen to see local police re-armed at the time you were Prime Minister. You’ve stepped back from that, have you?
MANASSEH SOGAVARE: Yes, you’re probably right. I’ve thought through a lot of things since I was forced out of government – of course very heavily (through) Australia’s involvement there as well – and I’ve thought it through. There are certain facts that we need to accept as a small regional country, that when the country is threatened by serious security issues, we can only call on Australia and New Zealand. That, we need to accept.
Radio New Zealand International