On 11th Anniversary, RAMSI Turns Focus Towards Draw Down

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Priorities will be training/supporting police, family violence, elections

By Ednal Palmer

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, July 25, 2014) – After restoring peace in the Solomon Islands, followed by support in various sectors and drawing down of the successful mission, the Regional Assistance Mission is now focusing on strengthening the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF).

Speaking during the commemoration of the mission’s 11th anniversary yesterday, special coordinator Justine Braithwaite said the focus now has been shifted to boosting the force as RAMSI will not remain in the Solomon Islands forever.

"As we all know, RAMSI cannot and should not be in Solomon Islands forever.

"In preparation for the eventuality that one day, the mission will conclude its time in Solomon Islands, the mission’s Participating Police Force, in consultation with the RSIPF and other key stakeholders, has developed a drawdown strategy covering the training and support that RAMSI will provide the RSIPF up until 2017," Mrs Braithwaite said.

She said their key priorities now under the strategy include capacity development of the RSIPF, preparing the RSIPF for limited rearmament, helping the RSIPF plan for upcoming national elections, and to respond effectively to family violence.

Capacity development

"RAMSI’s capacity development plan for RSIPF to 2017 has been jointly agreed with the force and the Ministry of Police, ensuring our assistance remains targeted to areas of greatest need. It is both ambitious, and comprehensive.

"The areas of our support include leadership training and development; community policing; mobility, infrastructure and logistics; national emergency and disaster response; accountability and discipline; corporate and financial management; policy and governance; and improved national security capabilities."

Limited rearmament

The special coordinator said the limited rearmament of the RSIPF is part of the drawdown strategy and is one of RAMSI’s key capacity development priorities.

The Government last year requested that RAMSI start preparing the RSIPF for limited rearmament.

The RSIPF currently is not able to perform many key policing functions because it has no firearms.

Under the project, limited rearmament means not all RSIPF officers will be armed – only a small proportion who need to carry firearms to protect members of the community from the threat of death or serious injury, or for self-defence.

The project will involve rigorous assessment and training of officers, development of policy, accountability and governance arrangements, construction of armouries for securing of firearms, and community consultations.

"We are very conscious of the sensitivities surrounding the issue of limited rearming of the RSIPF. For this reason, the highest standards of training and oversight will be accorded to those officers involved in the rearmament program.

"The rearming of the RSIPF is a phased process. Each phase will be closely monitored and we will only progress to the next phase on the approval of the SIG Cabinet. In turn, it is only when SIG is confident the RSIPF officers are trained, professional, disciplined and accountable will the next phases be authorized.

"We see public engagement as a critical part of the process and in this regard we welcome the Solomon Islands Government’s commitment to consult widely with broadest cross section of the Solomon Islands communities.

"This will ensure that Solomon Islanders are well informed of what I call the ABC of the RSIPF rearming process."

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