Private Column by Frank Short, CBE
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Monday, 21 January 2013 12:00 AM

Policing a Clash of Cultures Part 6: Arrival

Excerpt from my memoirs.

The seat belt sign disappeared and the rush to the exit door started with overhead lockers dispersing their contents into welcoming hands. The usual line of disembarking passengers quickly occupied the aisle, all heading towards the exit through the forward cabin door -- better to remain seated until the aisle got less crowded. We had arrived back on the ground and that was the main thing…

The man in the seat in front of mine, having also stood, now looked over the top of his seat back towards me and asked if I was the new Commissioner of Police?

“Yes,” was my smiling reply?

Surprise -- he was Thomas Hsieh, the resident Taiwanese Ambassador to the Solomon Islands. Responding in Cantonese, learned in Hong Kong, got his attention and he introduced his wife, Martha, and also Herman Chiu, the First Secretary at the Taiwanese Embassy in Honiara.

At the bottom of the aircraft steps, I met Morton Sireheti who firmly shook my hand and introduced himself as the Deputy Commissioner. He then followed up by introducing me to several senior ranking police officers. A nice gesture I thought.

Next were Fred Ganate, the Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet and Toswell Kaua, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Police. Then we all adjourned to a small VIP lounge where soft drinks had been laid on. One or two speeches of welcome came my way and relevant responses were returned.

Once the formalities were over, I was escorted to a waiting car where I was introduced to Chief Inspector Doris Sukaria, my aide for the day, and to Ronnie my driver. Doris was a largish lady, with an outgoing personality, topped by the bushiest hairstyle I had ever seen; which seemed to perch her police cap at a peculiar angle as it struggled to remain on her head. Ronnie, by contrast, was short and stocky; neat in his blue, but well worn police uniform.

Doris was talkative while Ronnie was subdued and concentrated on his driving as we headed off into Honiara via a road full of huge pot holes. The car weaved, avoiding them as we travelled snake like, into Honiara.

It was pleasant enough inside the air conditioned car, but oppressive and hot outside. Doris did her best to point out places of interest along the way, but I did start to notice the tired, neglected appearance of some of the buildings and facilities. The PWD yard had derelict, rusting vehicles, hiding behind equally depressing wire fencing – a foreshadowing of what was to greet me.

We soon reached the commercial centre along the one main dusty road which meandered close to the foreshore and drove by shop fronts grimy from accumulated dust. Most of them seemed to be Chinese owned as evidenced from the display of plastic ware, metal pots and pans, commonly seen in Chinese owned stores throughout Asia. Heavy, rusting metal grills covered many of the shop windows and this to me was an obvious, but disturbing sign of the necessity for crime protection.

Ronnie now negotiated a hideous, overgrown, roundabout shortly after passing the drab looking shops and then did a right turn into the forecourt of the Mendana Hotel which was to be my residence for the next couple of days.

The first official engagement was scheduled for two days later, which allowed time to settle in and put finishing touches as to what I would be saying on the welcoming parade at Rove.

Specific information on the Police Act, the Solomon’s Constitution and other police related legislation was needed, so I asked the Assistant Commissioner of Police for Administration, Joshua Votu, to bring me the relevant documents.

And that was how I spent my first weekend in the Solomon Islands; going through what he had delivered. One quickly realized the legislation was very similar to the statutory provisions in other former British territories and I felt very much at ease reading through it.

To be continued…..

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Frank Short, CBE and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.