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The Solomon Islands Government, through Cabinet, has deliberated on and approved the limited rearmament of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF).
A small number of highly-trained officers from the National Response Department will shortly have access to police firearms while on duty.
This will enable the RSIPF to protect Solomon Islands’ communities, borders and waters when there is an operational requirement.
The Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (OPMC) said the decision to rearm the police was taken slowly and deliberately and following extensive community consultations. It also explained that only the specialist police units, including the Police Response Team (PRT) and Close Personal Protection (CPP) would have access to the firearms.
At the request of the Solomon Islands Government, the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) began assisting with the selection and training of the PRT and CPP officers in 2013. Those that did not pass the high standards set by RAMSI and the Police Commissioner were moved to other areas of the RSIPF.
RAMSI has also ensured that the RSIPF has the right procedures and safeguards to ensure that the weapons are issued, carried, returned and stored properly. RAMSI also handed over a state-of-the-art armoury in May last year.
The OPMC said the approval of the RSIPF Limited Rearmament Programme was based on a submission by the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services that had the support of the RSIPF Commissioner and RAMSI.
The submission sought Cabinet approval to implement the RSIPF Limited Rearmament Plan to ensure the RSIPF is equipped to maintain law and order and ensure national security in post-RAMSI Solomon Islands.
Rearmament of the RSIPF will enable the Solomon Islands to meets its international obligations to protect Henderson International Airport and dignitaries after RAMSI leaves. It will also enable the RSIPF to deal with armed offenders and manage crocodile populations.
The OPMC said the Police Act 2013 provides the legal basis for the limited rearmament programme and the governance mechanism of this programme is aligned to the Act.
The OPMC said the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services together with RAMSI and the Prime Minister’s Office since 2014 have been engaged in a public consultation programme to explain to Solomon Islanders the reason for the limited rearmament. Although there were some reservations in parts of the country, there is overwhelming majority support for the rearmament of the RSIPF before RAMSI exits on 30th June 2017.
It said the RSIPF was in the process of purchasing the approved firearms and ammunition.
During the implementation phase, RAMSI officers will work alongside their counterparts to make sure the agreed systems and processes are followed.
The OPMC said that, thanks to the ongoing support of RAMSI, the Solomon Islands Government is confident that the RSIPF can undertake this limited rearmament exercise before RAMSI exits and its specialist officers can meet the high standards of accountability and behaviour set by the national government.
It said detailed information on the limited rearmament plans will be disseminated by the RSIPF.
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