Solomons still lacking a local police chief
Public perception that there are no suitable local candidates for police commissioner linger in Solomon Islands.
An academic says that there remains a public perception in Solomon Islands that it is still too difficult to find a suitable local candidate for Police Commissioner.
The country has appointed an Australian, Frank Prendergast, as the new police chief.
Dr Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka, an associate professor at the Center for Pacific Islands Studies at the University of Hawai'i, told Johnny Blades that after a long appointment process, no suitable local candidate emerged.
TARCISIUS TARA KABUTAULAKA: And this is because of experiences with the police and alleged involvement by some high ranking police officers - not all of them - in the conflict that we had in late 1999/2000 up until the deployment of RAMSI in 2003. So there's been that lingering perception in Solomon Islands' public that it's difficult to find a Solomon Islander. But there are also Solomon Islanders who think that it's time to have a Solomon Islands Commissioner of Police. We had one before the conflict, Fred Soaki, who was assasinated during the height of the conflict. And that perhaps this is time as an important part of the transition away from RAMSI (Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands) to have a local police commissioner. And they appointed someone (Peter Aoraunisaka) who unfortunately was involved in an accident right after the appointment, allegedly from drunken driving, so it raised questions of integrity about that particular individual. And also there were questions raised by the Governor-General's office in terms of the process of appointment and announcing a Police Commissioner.
JOHNNY BLADES: How do you see the force in general - has it been rehabilitated quite a bit since the days of the tensions? Because that was one of the priorities for the country following the deployment of RAMSI.
TTK: Well if you compare it to 2003 or even before 2003, one would say that the Solom,on islands police force has come a long way. There is still a lot of work to be done, a lot of work both in the training of police officers but also in terms of the allocations of resources. And in terms of allocation of resources, this is a government issue - allocating the kinds of resources that would enable us to operate an effective police force and an appropriate one as well that would suit the Solomons and not neccessarily tailored for Australia or New Zealand. The other thing is that, if you look at RAMSI at the moment, RAMSI's transition over the last couple of years and more patricularly since the ten year anniversary last year, if you look at what has changed a great deal is that RAMSI is now almost exclusively focussing on policing. They have shifted to a great extent away from the development role and the institutional strengthening role that they played in the first ten years. And a lot of that development role has now transitioned to either bilateral donors or multi-lateral donors. But there's still a lot of RAMSI focus on the police force.
JB: So it's natural they wanted to consolidate that with an Australian at the helm?
TTK: Well, one has to take into consideration that the decision and selection was done by the Police and prison services commission - I don't know to what extent RAMSI had a role in the selection process - but I think one has to understand and respect the decision of that body.
JB: Do you think that re-armament of Solomon Islands local police is still a prospect?
TTK: Well, if you look at the new RAMSI website that they've just created, that's one of the things that they're focussing on. I am very cautious about re-armament, especially given the experiences that we had leading up to the conflict and during the conflict. I would be really, really, cautious and raise the question - why are we re-arming ourselves, who are we fighting against? Our past experiences have shown that when we have arms, we use it against our own nationals and therefore, I'm not certain whether this is the time to re-arm Solomon Islands police.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: