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Thursday, July 12, 2007

RAMSI not in support of SIPF rearmament plan at this time

by Qila Tuhanuku

RAMSI believes much more work needs to be done to build the capacity of the Solomon Islands Police Force before rearmament can safely take place, the Acting Special Coordinator Jonathan Austin told a meeting of civil society groups yesterday.

Dr Austin said RAMSI’s position on rearmament has not changed since the Prime Minister told Parliament in February this year that he would not go ahead with rearming the police force.

“RAMSI still believes that before any limited rearmament could take place, it is important to ensure adequate development of the professional capacity, leadership and discipline of the Solomon Islands Police Force (SIPF).

“It is also important for any rearmament to have broad community support and for the community to feel confident about their police force.”

Dr Austin said RAMSI had sought clarification from the Government on plans for rearmament following recent media reports.

The Special Coordinator and Deputy Special Coordinator had met with the Prime Minister on 1 July to discuss RAMSI’s concern about the proposed re-arming of the SIPF.

Dr Austin told the one-day seminar organised by an alliance of civil society groups
that it was a top priority of RAMSI to work in partnership with the Government to rebuild a disciplined and well-trained Police force that inspired the trust and confidence of Solomon Islanders. Much progress had been made in this area, he said, but there was still a lot of work to be done.

In the meantime, Dr Austin said, “We continue to receive regular feedback from communities across the country that they do not want the police rearmed at this stage.”

The most recent feedback had been gathered by RAMSI’s Community Outreach Stall at the recent National Trade Show in Malaita last week.

“Our impression is that there is overwhelming opposition amongst ordinary people to rearmament,” Dr Austin said.

Dr Austin said there will be a limited need for the SIPF to use firearms in the future but added that RAMSI considered the the time for this had not yet come.

In the meantime RAMSI through its Participating Police Force continues to be available to provide the government and people of Solomon Island the services needing the use of firearms at no cost to the Solomon Islands.

Solomon Island patrol boats already have an armed presence on board through RAMSI and a procedure has been put in place to deal with community requests for action on dangerous crocodiles.

Source: RAMSI

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