25 August 2019
ï¿½Reflections on the state of the Solomon Islands Government and the RSIP in 1997-1998
ï¿½The Solomon Islands, following the election of the new government in April this year, decided to review diplomatic ties with Taiwan and currently a fact-finding mission is evaluating the relationship in respect of whether, or not, to recognize the Chinese (PRC) government in Beijing.
ï¿½The decision on any switch of diplomatic ties will be entirely a matter for the Solomon Islands government and no quick decision from the SIG is expected till possibly next year.
ï¿½The piece I am contributing today has a twofold purpose and follows in the light of the government considerations over its relations with Taiwan but also because I want to put into some kind of context what Prime Minister Sogavare said last week when speaking at the opening of the National Security Summit (NSS) in Honiara.
ï¿½Additionally, ï¿½I want to put on record the help rendered to the police service by the ROC Government during my tenure in office.
ï¿½Mr.Sogavare referred to the country being ï¿½unpreparedï¿½ when the civil conflict, now commonly referred to as the ï¿½Tensionsï¿½ first erupted in late 1998.
ï¿½Many of todayï¿½s young adults will not know of the real state of the country 22 years ago when the Prime Minister was serving as the Finance Minister in the then SIAC government led by Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufaï¿½alu,
ï¿½The fact is the SIAC government, when coming into office in August 1997 inherited a staggering debt of S$1 billion then owed to creditors, and foreign reserves were just enough to pay just three weeks of imports.
ï¿½Just prior to the general election in August 1997, I arrived in Honiara to take up position as the Commissioner of Police.
ï¿½On my arrival I was deeply shocked to find the state of the police service and my observations and concerns I fully described in Chapter 16 of my book, ï¿½Policing a Clash of Cultures.ï¿½
ï¿½Not only was the country bankrupt but the same could then be said of the police with shortages of every kind, personnel, uniforms, equipment, vehicles, office facilities, housing, communications and,ï¿½ to top things off,ï¿½ the policemen and women were then working without pay.
ï¿½How I struggled to overcome such disastrous conditions I also set out in my book.
ï¿½The general election was just days away after I arrived in mid-July 1997 and without transport I really wondered how the police would cope with overseeing the security aspects of police operations.ï¿½ I had no doubts about the police members themselves for they had proved dedicated to the task ahead ï¿½ and without receiving their pay ï¿½ who could question their loyalty and devotion to duty.
ï¿½The transport situation was remedied when the Taiwanese Ambassador told me the ROC Government was to hand over to me several police land rovers, motor cycles and a bus, capable of transporting 30 or so police personnel.ï¿½ The transport package came to about S$.3.5 million.
ï¿½A surprise indeed and a real life-saver that helped to secure a smooth and peaceful general election, but, also, facilitated subsequent police operations and community policing initiatives.
ï¿½When I commenced camp inspections of the police quarters in the Rove Camp I was really horrified to find the deplorable conditions in many staff quarters.ï¿½ Much needed to be done to renovate and re-construct a good number of dwellings as a result of age and infestation from termites and white ants.
ï¿½An appeal I made to the ROC Government resulted in funds being made available for the homes to be repaired both at Rove and in some of the provincial posts.
ï¿½Relations with the Taiwanese Government were further augmented with the visit of the Taiwanese Prime Minister to Honiara in 1998 and with the visit of the Taiwanese Navy Training Squadron in the same year.
ï¿½Whatever, the Solomon Islands government decides to do about its long-standing diplomatic ties with the ROC Government, I feel it is incumbent on me, as the former Commissioner of Police, to say the help rendered to the police service during my time in office is not forgotten, and I add my thanks
ï¿½My book ï¿½Policing a Clash of Culturesï¿½ to which I have referred is published on Amazon but I would be willing to send a copy to be downloaded by the Editors of the Solomon Star and Island Sun newspapers, if interested, and to allow the paperï¿½s readership to know of the prevailing conditions in the Solomon Islands in 1997-1999 and why, perhaps, the Hon Prime Minister last week was prompted to truly say, ï¿½We were unprepared.ï¿½