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Monday, January 22, 2007

RAMSI cautions against current plans to re-arm Solomons police

By Anne McCaig

The Special Coordinator of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, Tim George, has reaffirmed that RAMSI does not support the government’s plan to put guns back in the hands of the Solomon Islands Police Force at this stage.

In a meeting between the RAMSI Special Coordinator and Solomon Islands Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare on Friday, Mr Tim George expressed RAMSI’s concern about the proposed re-arming of the Solomon Islands Police Force (SIPF).

Speaking after the meeting, Mr George explained that RAMSI was unable to support the re-arming plans at this time.

“We feel it is our responsibility to voice our concerns about current plans to bring guns back into Solomon Islands. This is an issue of community safety, security and public confidence.

“RAMSI’s first task in 2003 was to get rid of guns in the Solomon Islands and bring back law and order. This is why RAMSI was invited here in the first place – it goes to the heart of our work here”, Mr George said.

“The surrendering of almost 4,000 guns by the community was a powerful moment for the people of Solomon Islands. Guns brought fear into people’s lives.

RAMSI has not seen any evidence that people want guns back in their communities.

Current plans to re-arm the police also undermine the long-term training plan that RAMSI’s Participating Police Force (PPF) has been undertaking to rebuild the Solomon Islands Police Force since 2005.

The Commander of RAMSI’s Participating Police Force, Will Jamieson, said he was impressed by the improving skills of SIPF officers and the strong relationships between PPF advisors from 15 Pacific countries and their Solomon Islands counterparts.

“Since 2005 the central aim of the RAMSI PPF has been training and capacity building the SIPF in all aspects of modern policing”, Commander Jamieson said.

This has included members of the Prime Minister’s Close Personal Protection team who have undertaken a specially designed training program adapted to the needs of the Solomon Islands including: driving, emergency actions, close personal protection drills, planning and searching techniques.

“The success of this training has helped the police force begin to rebuild confidence in themselves and trust with the community”, Commander Jamieson said.

“We are concerned re-arming the police force now may damage the good work that has been undertaken over the past two years between the police and the community”, he said.

“The re-arming of the police at this time is not something that can be rushed. It must be carefully planned”, he said.

Mr George says RAMSI feels that in the government proposal to re-arm the police there is not a satisfactory plan for training, purchasing, maintenance and security of weapons, and no evidence of broad community support amonst Solomon Islanders for re-arming.

Source: RAMSI

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