8 July 2022
SOLOMON Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, senior cabinet members and Australian High Commissioner Dr Lachlan Strahan attended a “milestone” demonstration of Australian-supplied police weapons and training at Tenaru Firing Range on 5 July.
The demonstration, which involved live-firing of new Short Barrel Riffle (SBR) – MK18 weapons, was led by the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) who were implementing their skills following training conducted in Brisbane earlier this year.
High Commissioner Dr Lachlan Strahan said “The weapons provided by the Australian Federal Police were delivered along with world’s best practice in policing tactics.”
“The RSIPF officers who undertook this training have qualified to be both users of the weapons, and instructors,” said Dr. Strahan.
“It is always important that once someone has an instrument of lethal force, they have the right training to know when and how to use it.”
Source – Solomon Star news.
The members of the RSIPF who undertook the training on how to use the newly acquired firearms may have been taught the SOP’s (Standard operation Procedures) for their use, but if they are used in police operations during future outbreaks of public order in the Solomon Islands, then it would only take one police officer with such a weapon to be “trigger happy” and to kill or seriously main a protestor for very serious and lasting consequences for the police service and the government of the day.
I personally consider such weapons as “excessive arms” unnecessary in dealing with street violence involving public disturbances and believe the more traditional issue of riot control equipment still suitable if the police need to know best to use them and trained and coordinated accordingly.
The Chinese (PRC) government has supplied the RSIPF with water cannons that could be put into effective use during any outbreak of public order to help dispel those protesting on the streets, to be followed up by properly trained police officers in public order duties, but not, unless a very last resort, by firing on protestors with lethal weapon designed to kill.
The last supply of lethal weapons given to the SIG by Australia were stolen from the police armoury or by defecting police officers and used in the civil conflict between mid 1999 to 2003.
I apologise that my comments are hard hitting ones but I was trained as a police officer believing in the use of minimum force, and still do, and armed, lethal force in the Solomon Islands should be a very last resort given all the composite mix that make up the factors that have in the past contributed to peoples anger and frustration, including disputes over land ownership, corruption, overall poor and limited health services, lack of uniform development and country wide infrastructure, widespread unemployment, especially amongst young people, urban drift, use of kwaso, food security, rising costs, including fuel prices and even basic transport fees and, yes, gossip and uniformed rumour.
The Solomon Islands remains reactive to the many issues I have identified as people problems and they need still to be addressed and resolved peacefully but the use of lethal firearms is not the answer and I believe their use by the police will have serious consequences if just one person is shot and killed in any future public order linked incident.
I again apologise openly for expressing my personal and frank views on the matters I have raised, but I see myself as a long standing and committed friend of the Solomon Islands and its citizens and on such an important issue, I would hope my comments are not taken to adversely.