ON June 30 the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) came to an end. Established in July, 2003, RAMSI has been a feature of life in Solomon Islands for more than a third of its history as an independent country. While much of what follows is anecdotal, recent visits to Honiara have provided some insight into the mood among Solomon Islanders as the end of RAMSI approaches.
The operation has been in a gradual wind-down since 2013 and is now much less visible that it was in earlier years. Even so, RAMSI still looms large in the minds of Solomon Islanders. RAMSI will be leaving Solomon Islands in an atmosphere of general goodwill.
The Solomon Islands government is planning a series of events to mark the end of RAMSI in late June. These will be the occasion for sincere and heartfelt expressions of gratitude for RAMSI’s role in restoring the rule of law and the functioning of government in Solomon Islands. Much stress will—rightly—be placed on the regional nature of RAMSI’s composition.
Although RAMSI couldn’t have been mounted or sustained without Australian funding and personnel, it was the participation of all of Solomon Islands’ Pacific neighbours in RAMSI that gave it its particular character, and lent it genuine legitimacy in the eyes of Solomon Islanders.
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WHEN Solomon Islands police officers walk onto Honiara’s streets with pistols, they will become the first armed force outside of former United States territories. With Cabinet approval, the Royal Solomon Island Police Force will roll out selectively armed units around the country beginning as early as this month. The first to be armed will be Close Protection Officers who provide security for government and other political leaders. It’s most likely they will be armed with Glock pistols which will be concealed. This will be followed by the introduction of a Special Response Unit trained in tactical responses to situations in which weapons suspects are armed.
The final phase of arming the RSIPF will see armed units introduced at key stations around the country and weapons pre-positioned in armouries at critical sites for use in emergencies. While a final decision to arm officers has not been taken, the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) has started to train selected personnel ahead of the roll-out.
“The training provided to carefully selected officers is of world class standard,” RAMSI Special Coordinator Quinton Devlin said. “The specialist units will be ready to be rearmed shortly but the decision to rearm rests with the Solomon Islands government.” Regional officials were in Honiara last month and saw first-hand the capabilities of armed RSIPF officers during a live fire exercise at police headquarters in Rove.