Private Column by Frank Short, CBE
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Monday, 18 March 2013 12:00 AM

Policing a Clash of Cultures Part 30 : Our Arms Specialist and Human Rights Adviser.


Extract from my memoirs.

From the start of my appointment as Commissioner it is fair to say I was uncomfortable with the NRSF as a para military arm of the Force, especially as they were soldiers in makeup and thinking; armed to the teeth with sophisticated, powerful weapons and unsuitable, in my view, to be deployed on general duties.

As discussed in a previous chapter the traditional, way of structuring a police force was to have two parts – standard general duty police officers and a much smaller para military section which stopped short of ‘Army.’

In the Solomon Islands the people are generally more laid back by nature: not ‘up and go to war groups’ – unless of course pushed by forces which make them angry. Most of our dissidents were, initially, small groups in various segments of Guadalcanal. They could be handled by small police operations during the very early part of the inter-island conflict, but not after their numbers grew and they armed themselves with weapons, including a range of stolen firearms,home-made weapons and adapted World War II relics .

Having witnessed enough military type action in other parts of the world, one understood that firearms had to be weapons of last resort and their use regulated by strict orders. This included safe handling and inventory control. The latter was of prime concern to me.

The border protection duties exclusively undertaken by the NRSF were lucrative for them as they benefitted from generous allowances while serving on the border. In times of operational need, as would later prove to be the case, many members were reluctant to be deployed on general police duties and, as made clear, I did not consider them to be the ideal personnel to be involved in dealing with civil disturbances, or attending to incidents. Neither training, equipment, nor correct mindset was there.

With these thoughts in mind, I brought in a British weapons expert and human rights adviser, to double duty: a Charles Hosking, whom I had met in Bophuthatswana, Africa, where he, like myself, had been involved in promoting a fresh, British, approach to policing and teaching human rights to the then newly created South African Police Service (SAPS, after Nelson Mandela became the countries first black President and the scrapping of the ‘Homelands’ policy of the former apartheid regime.

Hosking’s contract engagement was sponsored by the British High Commission in Honiara but his remuneration was actually paid by the Solomon Islands Government. He was given the honoury rank of Senior Superintendent which was commensurate with his duties.

A very senior diplomatic source divulged that Australia tried to block his appointment but was unsuccessful. On his arrival and during his stay, he was unfortunately ignored by the Australian Defence Adviser, Lt. Col. Mike Phillips and the staff of the Australian High Commission, for reasons beyond me.

Hosking was immediately tasked with teaching the NRSF safe handling methods for their military hardware and training selected personnel in public order management skills involving the use of minimum force.

He was also involved in encouraging physical fitness training which he supervised and participated in daily.

Additionally, he also drew up a comprehensive human rights education programme to supplement the instruction the members of the NRSF had already received in humanitarian law and conflict resolution, as mentioned previously.

One other important task that I gave him, which will be commented on in more detail in the next chapter, was to investigate, evaluate and make recommendations for the acquisition of less lethal arms to augment and possibly replace traditional arms and riot equipment.

In the months ahead, I tasked Hosking with several other important responsibilities and duties which were determined by the unfolding situation.

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.

This post is part of a series. Next post: Policing a Clash of Cultures Part 31: Rapid Response Unit (RRU)