Solomon Star

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (May 4) – RAMSI [Regional Assistance Mission Solomon Islands] chief James Batley was more than impressed after having talks with chiefs and church leaders in north Malaita last Friday.

He was not only impressed with what the chiefs are doing out there, but also the significant improvement of law and order in the area.

At the height of the civil unrest, north Malaita was referred to as the most dangerous and problematic region in Malaita Province.

The majority of MEF militants are from north Malaita. In their reign, they undermined and overtaken the authority of chiefs and church leaders.

Lawlessness was rife in the area.

Even after RAMSI arrived on 24 July 2003, lawlessness continues to persist.

Production of the illegal home-brew kwaso and cultivation of marijuana were widespread.

But all these started to change when chiefs in partnership with the police, and support from community members, decided to take a stand.

The stand is lawlessness cannot be tolerated in the communities.

In concert, chiefs, church leaders and community members in partnership with the police carried out joint policing of the communities.

They reign in on kwaso production and marijuana cultivation – the two main causes of disturbance in the communities – by telling the producers and cultivators to put a stop to their illegal activities.

Those who obeyed were spared prosecution. The ones who refused faced the full force of the law.

This approach had resulted in the return of peace and order into the communities of north Malaita.

In commending the effort, Mr Batley said the chiefs and church leaders in north Malaita have set a fine example in community policing and partnership.

Indeed they have.

This example clearly demonstrated that community policing works effectively well when there is trust and confidence between members of the public and the police.

It also shows that chiefs and church leaders can play a very effective and influential role in the maintenance of law and order in their respective communities.

And in isolated communities where law enforcement agencies are not immediately available, chiefs can play the role of a policeman as mediator between conflicting parties.

This is not a new concept. Chiefs have long played an important role in the orderly running of their communities in traditional Solomon Islands society.

That role must not be taken away, but elevated to include the maintenance of law and order.

The authority of chiefs should never be overlooked.

May a5, 2005

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