Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has assured the nation that there is nothing to fear about Police officers bearing firearms under the Royal Solomon Islands Police (RSIP) Limited Rearmament Program.
Hon Sogavare made the assurance in his keynote speech at the opening of the new RSIPF National Response Department Building at Rove Police Headquarters containing the armoury.
“I can assure everyone – the members of the public and the media, church groups, women’s groups, youth and all citizens, that there is no reason for us to fear RSIP Officers who will be bearing arms, under the program.”
“I want to make it clear that the personnel who will be bearing arms have gone through a series of specialized and rigorous training, which requires them to use the arms only when the situation becomes critically necessary.”
“In other words, they have been trained and disciplined to use these firearms for protection and for the sake of maintaining law and order in very critical situations, and only as a last resort.”
“RAMSI has been assisting the RSIP Police Commissioner to finalise a set of accountability and governance rules and systems to ensure the firearms are handled responsibly and appropriately,” he said.
He said training in compliance with these accountability and governance standards is going very well, and selected officers within the RSIP will soon be ready to be armed.
Prime Minister Sogavare said the training for the selected officers within the three operational units within the RSIP is so strict that those officers who failed to pass the stringent standards have been dropped from the units.
And it is only when Cabinet is satisfied with the developments of the staged, limited rearmament program that Cabinet has authorized the purchase of the small number of policing firearms.
“Let me assure the people of Solomon Islands, that these weapons are Police weapons that are used by Police Forces worldwide.”
“Once the arms are procured, the next and final step is to agree to the carriage and use of the firearms, a decision which only the Cabinet will make, when it is absolutely satisfied that all necessary training, storage infrastructure, control systems and governance arrangements are in place.
The Prime Minister said the Government is fully aware of the concerns of the Solomon Islands people in regarding the rearming of the Patrol Boats. However, at this stage, armed personnel will be deployed with the Patrol Boats only when required.
“As your leader and Prime Minister, I am satisfied with the current work progress of the RSIP limited rearmament program.”
“I strongly believe that the limited rearmament capability designed for the RSIP is sufficient to make this country safer and enable the Police Force to deal with dangerous and armed offenders”, the Prime Minister said.
He said the opening of the new National Response Department facility signifies the continuing growth and development of RSIP and also a clear manifestation of the growing trust and confidence by the people of Solomon Islands in the Solomon Islands Government and the RSIP since the dark events of the ethnic crisis in June 2000.
Police Commissioner Frank Prendergast said the NRD facility and armoury are key pieces of infrastructures in supporting the limited rearmament of RSIP that has been underway for a number of years, and which is still continuing under the supervision of a high level committee, which advices Cabinet of the developments of the rearmament program.
The NRD facility will house pistols, shotguns, rifles and ammunitions to be used by three Police Operational Units namely, the RSIP Police Response Team, Close Personal Protection Team and Internal Airport Police.