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Friday, 15 February 2013 12:00 AM

Policing a Clash of Cultures Part 17: The Traffic Chaos

Excerpt from my memoirs.

Having succeeded in bringing about better working conditions for the police at Rove, I decided that something had to be done to address the traffic chaos on the main road through Honiara.

Traffic in and out of the central business areas was so regularly congested that vehicles, including public transport buses, were reduced to a snail’s pace causing delays, lost production and public irritation. The fact that the one main road was poorly maintained and the feeder roads in very bad condition only added to the daily traffic jam.

I realized that whatever may be done to alleviate and improve traffic flow through this area, the measures could only be seen as temporary solutions because unless the roads were upgraded and the importation of second hand motor vehicles halted, or suspended, then no amount of traffic directions would solve the real problem.

However, I felt that action was better than a lot of static thinking and planning.

An operational plan was drawn up with the traffic superintendent who then posted policemen from both the traffic branch and the Honiara Central Police Station and Naha, to key junctions and intersections where they carried out traffic control duties directing vehicles, at the busiest times of the day.

The PWD was encouraged to remove the hideous roundabout at the junction of Ashley Street and that, once out of the way, opened up a better flow of traffic from east to west.

The PWD also began to repair the road surfaces filling in pot holes and grading several of the feeder roads.

We now had focus. There was action. There was seen movement.

Dipping into my own pocket once again, I had white traffic sleeves and white cap covers made locally and issued these to the officers assigned to traffic control duties.

One was much impressed by the work of the policemen undertaking the traffic tasks, especially as they were required to work in hot, dusty conditions. During inclement weather they also got wet but carried on regardless.

A local chemist donated face masks for the officers to wear and a departing engineering contractor donated standard, yellow, police uniform jackets.

The support for the welfare and operational needs of the police was very much appreciated and there was also general public acclaim now, about what was being done to help ease the traffic congestion.

A clamp down on old and defective vehicles followed, as part of the overall traffic enforcement policy: something hitherto not experienced in Honiara. Many vehicles were removed from operating on the roads until fitted with new tyres, working lights, new exhaust systems and effective brakes.

Unlicensed drivers and those operating their vehicles without third party insurance were targeted and many prosecuted.

Unfortunately, I had less measure of success in having the importation of second hand motor vehicles stopped, due to assorted reasons beyond my control.

But we were seen to be getting some key things done and the public could see the improvement.

To be continued…..

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