After almost 14 years, the Solomon Islands police force has been rearmed.
At a ceremony in Honiara last week the police force launched its limited rearmament programme which will see 125 officers from the Police Response Team (PRT) and Close Personal Protection (CPP) squad bear arms when on duty.
Speaking at the launch on May 8, Commissioner of Police Matthew Varley said it marked an important day in the history of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) and the Solomon Islands.
“For almost 14 years the RSIPF has been without arms, but today as Commissioner of the RSIPF I am proud to announce that the RSIPF is ready for the responsibility of rearmament.”
Rearmament remains a sensitive subject in the Solomon Islands, reports the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation.
During the five-year period of ethnic violence, known locally as “The Tensions’” some officers became part of the conflict with the police armoury in Honiara being raided and the guns used to threaten the population.
The conflict, between 1998 and 2003, was centred between militants from Guadalcanal Island and settlers from Malaita and saw the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) move in and take control.
RAMSI force set to leave
The RAMSI force is set to leave next month. This has made some people in the community nervous, but the ceremony was all about one word: trust.
Delivering the keynote address, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said the Solomon Islands government also had a duty of care not to force RSIPF to compromise its position of trust.
“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,” he said.
“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 shoulders of each and every police officer will be entrusted with the use of firearms in the discharge of their official duty.”