24 Jun 2003

Former Solomons police commissioner says earlier help may have averted depth of crisis

11:41 am on 24 June 2003

A former Solomon Islands police commissioner says if he had been given some of the donor assistance he pleaded for in 1998, the crisis which has since gripped the country might not have had such a devastating impact.

Frank Short, who was commissioner from 1997 to 1999, says intelligence indicated what was coming.

He says if the assistance called for had been given the current problems might have been avoided.

"If then that had happened and full support had been given and I believe that with that kind of support we would have been in a better position to give proper assessment to the Solomon Islands government and it may have been possible then to have avoided the crisis and certainly perhaps avoided a crisis to the extent that it then became"

He also says the Bougainville conflict in Papua New Guinea was a major factor in undermining the capability of the police.

He says there was an ongoing requirement for border protection which was a drag on scarce resources and manpower.

He says this came at a time when there were growing problems for police in the capital Honiara, as a result of unemployment, urban drift, and frustrations arising from people squatting.

Mr Short says in the midst of this the Guadalcanal militant activity began and he says Bougainville had a very large influence on subsequent events.

And it was true that the sort of happenings on Bougainville were carbon copied to some extent in Solomon Islands we saw for example the manufacture of homemade firearms some of the sort of approach and tactics that were being deployed were I think copied from what had taken place during the civil war in Bougainville.