Private Column by Frank Short, CBE
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This post is part of a series. Previous post: Policing a Clash of Cultures Part 18: The Media Relations Connection
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 12:00 AM

Policing a Clash of Cultures Part 19 : A Policeman's Lot is not a Happy One.

Excerpt from my memoirs.

In the first few months of my appointment as Commissioner, one was mindful of the chapter heading -- words from W.S. Gilbert when writing for the opera the ‘Pirates of Penzance.'

The problems associated with law enforcement in the Solomon Islands, given the poor facilities, poor working conditions and logistical shortages of the Force since Independence, had been exacerbated all the more following the outbreak of hostilities and the ongoing civil war in Bougainville.

The initial colonial method of policing adopted by the British and the philosophy of a police force acting primarily in a civil role had changed to one where a paramilitary unit, the NRSF, had been created to deal with the threat on the nation’s western borders; a unit which got priority funding, equipment and training.

As the mindset of the NRSF was, essentially, ‘Army,’ I encouraged our closest regional, development partners, Australia and New Zealand, with whom the Solomon Islands had mutual aid programmes, to give this unit training in humanitarian law, conflict resolution, communications, operational planning and report writing.

One of the great assets of the south Pacific Islands is that the culture of the Islands lends itself to peaceful negotiation like solutions, rather than the more warlike efforts of other nations.

While they can respond to affronts like anyone else their natural inclination is one of a more laid back attitude throughout the Islands: responding positively to a more non violent law enforcement approach. This is something that tended to either be not recognized, or ignored.

We organized selected personnel from the NRSF to be attached to Military Police units from both countries as a consequence of this changed training focus.

One was fortunate, also, to get help from Gregory Balk, a human rights advocate, and the International Committee of the Red Cross in Suva, in providing additional humanitarian law courses for the NRSF personnel engaged on border duties.

To aid the work of the CID, I obtained the assistance of a retired detective chief superintendent from the Royal Hong Kong Police Force, Robert Stephenson, who volunteered to help in reviewing the needs of the Force’s criminal investigation division.

On the completion of Stephenson’s assignment, he submitted an analysis of what was necessary, including equipment, facilities and training needs.

His comprehensive report was submitted for consideration by the Solomon’s government but never acknowledged and his valuable advice and assistance went unheeded by the politicians.

To ease the plight of police accommodation in the Rove barracks and in Auki and Gizo, my appeal to the Prime Minister did get a response. The government of the Republic of China (ROC) promised funds to refurbish dilapidated houses and quarters.

Here a distant neighbour was becoming more interested in the Islands’ welfare than our closer ones.

I was pleased to see such work being undertaken before leaving the Solomons.

To be continued …

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