SPEECH BY HONOURABLE MANASSEH DAMUKANA SOGAVARE, PRIME MINISTER ON THE OCCASION TO MARK THE LIMITED REARMAMENT OF THE ROYAL SOLOMON ISLANDS POLICE FORCE AT ROVE POLICE HEADQUARTER, MONDAY 8 MAY 2017
- Excellency the Governor General Sir Frank Ofagioro Kabui – GCMG CSI OBE;
- Minister for Police, National Security & Correctional Services – Hon Stanley Festus Sofu;
- Secretary to Cabinet: Mr James Remobatu;
- Acting Permanent Secretary—MPNS & CS—Mr Mactus Forau;
- RAMSI Special Coordinator—Mr Quinton Devlin;
- Commissioner of Police Mr Matthew Varley;
- Commander PPF—Mr John Tanti;
- Deputy RAMSI Special Coordinator – Mr Alex Cameron;
- Assistant RAMSI Special Coordinator – Mr Masi Lomaloma;
- RSIPF & PPF Executive members; and
- Members of the CPP, PRT & International Airport Protection Officers.
Today marks a new chapter in the history of our beloved country and today I am indeed honoured to stand before you to officially launch the Limited Re armament of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF).
It must not be forgotten that some sixteen years ago, the RSIPF have come through a major challenge in terms of its capability to properly maintaining law and order in this country. It was during this time, the issue of firearms were at the centre of various hardships faced by this Country.
The wrongful use of firearms was at the core of the reasons why our people lost total confidence on the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force as custodian of the duty to protect the citizens of this country.
It is also important to note by way of qualifying this statement that it was the action of certain factions of the force, responding to the way the government of the day handled issues that have national security implications that allowed the nation to go down that path. The force had to come through a painful experience to regain that confidence.
It is therefore an achievement that we as a country cannot take lightly. Every member of the discipline force has a duty of care to each other in this regard. By the same token, the Solomon Islands Government also has a duty of care not to place the force in a situation where it is forced to compromise its position of trust.
Now that we have regained that confidence, we have a duty to ensure that we maintain the people’s confidence in the force and by extension the government. That responsibility lies squarely on the shoulder of each and every police officer who will be entrusted with the use of firearms in the discharge of their official duty.
Since the arrival of RAMSI, the issue of rearmament has been at the epicentre of discussions of our nation for some time. Not all have been supportive of this initiative and I can say for sure that we all know why.
Our people have since attributed the issue of arms to the downfall of this nation. As an icon for despair and destruction.
But as much as we would like to erase the past; we cannot. But life is an unwritten script and continuous journey, and therefore, at some point in our lives, we must be able to either personally and or collectively, make the conscious decision to move on in life or be forever burdened with the past.
The issue of rearmament is an issue that we as a country and people must come to terms with. That moment has come and as people we must accept the hard fact that as member of the international community of nations Solomon Islands must move on and function as a country with sovereign rights to make sovereign decisions.
Having said that, the past should not be discarded and abandoned or forgotten altogether; but it should serve as a reminder on how to move into the future. In this connection, for our country Solomon Islands, those dark days must continue to serve as a constant reminder to us that the use of weapons in an unlawful manner will not only bring despair and destruction but to the eventual downfall of society.
Therefore, this particular occasion, today, is about tomorrow. It is the beginning of a long, arduous and sensitive journey of confidence building. It is the beginning of the last hope that our people will have on the Royal Solomon Island Force as an institution that can be trusted with the security of this nation.
It is an acid test to demonstrate to the people of Solomon Islands that the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force has indeed fully reformed and can once again be called the discipline force because that it is what you are. You have a tremendous responsibility on your shoulders, and one which you cannot take lightly.
My Dear Officers, you are the guardians of tomorrow. You are and have been chosen to lead and to protect the citizens of our Country. My Government has all hope and trust in your ability to duly discharge your duties without fear or favour.
We must be reminded that security is the backbone of any Country and the DCCG Government is fully aware of its importance. I must assure the people of this Nation that security issues are significantly highlighted in the reprioritisation of the DCCG Government.
The recent influx of blue boats has raised the concerns of Government’s ability to properly police our water. But I must take my hat off to the RSIPF and Ministry of Fisheries & Marine Resources and say that the capture of 3 blue boats out of 4 boats is testament that our Officers are capable of operational duties.
It is on this note; I am pleased to inform distinguished guests and the RSIPF that the Government in its wisdom saw it necessary to commence the limited rearmament process of RSIPF and has therefore approved the program accordingly.
Limited rearmament is fundamental to the security of Solomon Islands because it equips the RSIPF with the necessary operational tools and technical skills to help them in the course of their duties.
Similarly, limited armed capability is also essential to enable the RSIPF to provide protection for our national leaders and other important leaders who visit Solomon Islands.
I can assure you and the people of Solomon Islands that the DCCG Government stands committed to ensuring that our RSIPF develops its operational capabilities so that it has the ability to respond to serious criminal threats and manage the security of Solomon Islands.
The rearmament program is currently developed by focussing on a limited rearmament plan. This limited rearmament plan entails the arming of certain units within the RSIPF: Close Personal Protection Unit, Police Response Team and police at our international airport.
I am assured by the Commissioner of Police that it is a requirement that all members of these units who will be armed are selected based on their personal qualities to undergo a training program and will only be allowed to access firearms if they pass the rigorous training.
On this note, may I assure the people of this Country, the decision to rearm the RSIPF is not a decision that my Cabinet has taken lightly.
To my Good Officers, the fact that you stand before me, is evidence of the trust that the Government of Solomon Islands places in you on behalf of our people. We have entrusted in you the security of our nation especially when RAMSI is poised to exit service.
Your country asks that you have pledge your honour to the people. They have cried enough and I ask that you hold dear their plea. The plea that weapons are not used ever again against the people it serves to protect.
You will be faced with hard decisions in the discharge of your duty. But I am assured that the intensive training and discipline you have received will guide and provide you with the utmost duty and care in discharging that duty. The dedication and commitment to serve this country and its people must always be the foundation of your duty.
My Good Officers, may God bless you and May God Bless Our Solomon Islands from shore to shore.