Australian riot police in Solomons for elections
Additional RAMSI personnel arrive in Solomon Islands for elections next week.
A contingent of Australian riot police is among more than 90 officers being flown to Solomon Islands ahead of next week's elections.
The Special Coordinator for the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands Justine Braithwaite says the increase in RAMSI's personnel is only a contingency measure while the local police force is in full control of policing the elections.
She told Koroi Hawkins about preparations for the polls.
JUSTINE BRAITHWAITE: In our view, we anticipate that the elections will be conducted peacefully and in a very secure environment. If their are any isolated security incidents then the RSIPF is very well prepared and well positioned to manage those, but the incoming specialists will involve a very strong tactical police contingent. In the event that there are any issues then we will be able to support the RSIPF in managing those.
KOROI HAWKINS: Why is such support still needed?
JB: Well I think it is going to be a very very large operation. Solomon Islands is a very difficult environment in which to deliver an election. You've got a thousand islands, a hundred of those are inhabited and around nine hundred plus polling stations to cover. So I think the support is really being brought in as a contingency measure in case there are issues that the RSIPF need assistance with.
KH: How do you think this reflects on the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force capabilities given that RAMSI has put so much time and so much money as well into training and building up the force over the last, more than a decade now?
JB: I think it's really no reflection on the RSIPF's capabilities at all it's really just a prudent contingency measure. The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force has made very significant advances in recent years, particularly in the area of public order management. So I think we are very confident that the RSIPF. Who is leading this operation, will be able to manage things, independently but as a contingency measure if their are any issues that, RAMSI police are here to support them.
KH: And, elections aren't extraordinary events, I mean, Fiji, Samoa, Niue, Tonga all had elections, have had elections and are having elections and they don't need additional police force from any country to come in. Why is Solomon Islands different?
JB: I don't think that Solomon Islands is different in the sense that Solomon Islands has come a long way since the era of the tensions which brought RAMSI in, in 2003. I think people are expecting to have a peaceful electoral process this year and I think the fact that RAMSI remains in the country is really a sign that the RSIPF is moving forward but is still a developing police force in many senses. The bulk of the force has been recruited since the tension era which means you've got 70 percent of the force's officers are still relatively new. So I think in that instance it is appropriate for RAMSI, given that we are already here, to be providing this additional support and I think it's certainly been very much welcomed by the Solomon Islands government and the police force themselves.
KH: How long, for how much longer will Solomon Islands need RAMSI?
JB: I'd say that the force is on a very positive trajectory and is certainly heading towards a point were it will be able to be an independent sovereign police force within the next few years. Decisions around the future of the mission are yet to be established. We are going to be talking with the Solomon Islands government about the future of the mission and it's time frames after the election has occurred and the new government is formed.
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