THE Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) believes the time is right for Royal Solomon Islands police force (RSIPF) to pursue the limited rearmament of its police.
RAMSI Special Coordinator Ms Justine Braithwaite in her message marking the 11 years of the partnership between RAMSI and the Solomon Islands government yesterday said the limited rearmament of the police is a sensitive issue for many Solomon Islanders.
“But it is a necessary step if the RSIPF is to be able police Solomon Islands independently into the future.”
She explained that limited rearmament means the reintroduction of firearms to those few selected areas of the RSIPF which require them in order to carry out their duties.
The limited rearmament model is based on the one used in the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
Ms Braithwait said the main feature is that not all RSIPF officers will be armed.
“Under the project, the reintroduction of firearms will be limited to only certain units within the RSIPF – the Police Response Team; the Close Personal Protection Unit; and the RSIPF officers at Henderson International Airport. RAMSI will be working closely with these teams in order to ensure there is a rigorous selection and training process.
“Any officer selected to take part in the project will need to pass high Australian-based curriculum standards and testing.”
Last October, Cabinet made the decision to prepare the RSIPF for limited rearmament, and authorised RAMSI to put in place the necessary training, infrastructure, accountability, policy and governance arrangements.
Each stage of the limited rearmament program must be authorised by the Solomon Islands Cabinet before the project can proceed further.
The RAMSI boss agreed that certain RSIPF officers need to be able to carry firearms in the course of their duties to protect members of the community from the threat of death or serious injury, and for self-defence.
“Without firearms, the RSIPF cannot enforce the national security interests of Solomon Islands including the protection of its borders.
“The RSIPF further cannot provide full protection for very important persons such as Solomon Islands’ leaders or high level visitors.
“It also cannot provide the armed police presence required to support security at the country’s international airport.
“And the force needs some rifles to be able to destroy crocodiles that pose a threat to those Solomon Islanders living along the coast or near waterways.”
She commended the Government for having the vision and commitment to pursue the limited rearmament of its police.
“RAMSI believes the time is right to do so, and that the RSIPF are ready to take this step.”
She said RAMSI will also be building infrastructure, including armouries and training facilities and assisting with the development of policies and regulations to ensure the highest accountability standards.
By MOFFAT MAMU