5 Aug 2013

Solomons academic asks whether country can afford RAMSI legacy

5:34 pm on 5 August 2013

A Solomon Islands academic says as the Regional Assistance Mission is scaled down it will be important to ask whether the government can afford the institutions the intervention has created.

Last month marked a decade of RAMSI, which was deployed originally to end a bloody civil conflict and has now been downsized to a policing-only operation.

Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka of the Centre for Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii, told Annell Husband while it has been very successful in some areas, RAMSI may also have created dependency.

TARCISIUS TARA KABUTAULAKA: Take, for instance, the police. The police has come really expensive, and a huge percentage - more than 50% - of police funding, of police logistics and so forth comes from RAMSI. So the question is...

ANNELL HUSBAND: I thought you said before that the Solomon Islands government needed to make the same commitments to funding the police as has been made by RAMSI. But are you saying that perhaps that's not entirely necessary? It's necessary now that it's been created, now that that's the system that's in place now, but it didn't have to be that way.

TTK: That's right. And whether or not our economy can afford to maintain such an institution.

AH: What happens, though, to stability if it doesn't? Is there a risk around that?

TTK: I think there is a broader question and one which has been discussed in the past. I don't hear a lot of people talking about it now. But the broader question is to ask what kind of policing the Solomon Islands' needs, that's appropriate for Solomon Islands and can be afforded by Solomon Islands. So our police force does not necessarily have to resemble and function the same way the Federal Australian Police Force functions. But we could look at other ways of policing. There have been discussions about community policing. How far we've explored that I'm not sure.

AH: The point that you've just raised, that actually is more widely applicable, isn't it, because is that not one of the central issues here, that all sorts of systems have been brought in from overseas and imposed over the communities in Solomon Islands - the government system is one?

TTK: I think people are really conscious about that - people in RAMSI and people in Solomon Islands, as well. We just haven't been able to come up with the kind of institution that would be appropriate for Solomon Islands. Perhaps there is a need for a bit more thinking about that. But if you look at interventions elsewhere in the world, interventions have a tendency and they have a period of time in which they go in and they focus on building institutions. Some of those institutions, in a lot of cases, the institutions collapse after the intervention forces pull out. So there is a need to think carefully about the kind of institutions that we're building.