'We will be ready for RAMSI's exit' says Solomons Police Chief
The commissioner of Solomon Islands police force says his organisation will be ready for the likely end of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands in two years time.
The Solomon Islands police commissioner says his agency will be ready for the likely end of the Regional Assistance Mission in two years.
The latest round of funding for the Australia and New Zealand led regional intervention mission force ends in 2017 and there is an expectation that the 14th year of the mission will be its last.
Koroi Hawkins reports:
The mission went into Solomon Islands in 2003 after several years of ethnic tension that had caused the deaths of at least 200 people, displaced thousands and brought much of the country to a standstill. The large military component was cut back quite quickly and the focus went on rebuilding the police and government services. In recent years the emphasis as been almost totally on developing the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force. The man in charge of leading that new look force into uncharted waters, after more than a decade of RAMSI oversight is commissioner Frank Prendergast. He says he is confident they will be ready come 2017.
FRANK PRENDERGAST: So we are moving to a crime prevention model which is a different way of working than we have in the past. We have been working with government on the funding levels for the police which are very important going forward. We are also working through continued development around capability particularly around mobility. But also importantly around things like rearmament which is a key gap in our capability at the moment. The other sort of capability that we are sort of focusing in on obviously is leadership which I think is really key to the future of the RSIPF and then work around what we call corporate services review and trying to streamline that modernize it and make it more efficient.
If all of this is completed within the next two years Mr Prendergast says he feels the force will be in a strong position but says it will still need support from Australia and New Zealand. RAMSI's deputy special coordinator, Alex Cameron, says this assistance will be provided.
ALEX CAMERON: We know that donors to RAMSI, the Australian government in particular and the New Zealand government in particular have already made commitments to continue to provide policing support beyond 2017. What shape that takes whether it is bilateral, whether it continues to come under RAMSI or whether it is an alternative policing program, multilateral policing program that comes about as a result of the discussions.
But the President of the National Council of Women Ella Kauhue says the women of Solomon Islands whom her organisation represents, would feel safer if RAMSI stayed.
ELLA KAUHUE: And if you look at what is happening now I think corruption is very much rife in the country and these are issues where women are still very fearful of. Violence against women is an epidemic in this country and I think that these are areas where women feel that are not being addressed and having RAMSI's presence in the country gives us the confidence that this place is still safe for many of our women and girls.
Ms Kauhue's sentiments are shared by RAMSI's longest serving executive, Assistant Special Coordinator Masi Lomaloma. The Fijian national of chiefly descent was brought into Solomon Islands in 2005 to help the mission better engage with local communities. He says government officials need to pay more attention to the final phases of the mission.
MASI LOMALOMA: This is the most critical and important phase of RAMSI because you know when we came in if something went wrong we were still here to fix it. But after we leave if something goes wrong then it is really in the hands of the Solomon Islands government and especially the RSIPF to resolve. To make sure the Solomon Islands government officials understand the importance of this drawdown.
A Solomons academic , associate professor Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka from the University of Hawaii's Centre for Pacific Island Studies says there is a mindset among Solomon Islanders that RAMSI should be the solution for all of the country's problems. Mr Kabutaulaka says successive governments have failed to resolve the underlying causes of the ethnic crisis.
TARCISIUS TARA KABUTAULAKA: In fact RAMSI has provided an environment where Solomon Islanders should step up and address some of the issues that they see as the underlying causes of the conflict. And it is up to Solomon Islanders to do that. We can't expect an external intervention force like RAMSI to address the issues that are important to Solomon Islands.
James Batley from the Australian National University's state, society and governance program and one of the first special coordinators of RAMSI says all things considered it is simply time for Solomon Islanders to take responsibility for their own future.
JAMES BATLEY: You know Solomon Islands is still a country that has got serious development challenges. I think some people had overly high expectations of what RAMSI might be able to do and I think that some of those high hopes maybe were unrealistically high. The regional community, Solomons external partners can help and have helped. But you do come back to the point that there are basic fundamental issues that have to be worked through by Solomon Islanders themselves.
To date Australia has spent more than 1.9 billion dollars US dollars on RAMSI and New Zealand's contribution runs into tens of millions, and other aid donors have also contributed.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: