Dear Editor,

In March 1998, as the then RSIP Commissioner of Police,I was invited to address a multi-national gathering of senior military officers at a Pacific Armies Management Seminar (PAMS) in Manila, Philippines, when I outlined what I perceived to be the threats to the internal security situation in the Solomon Islands.

I again referred to the threats when I presented evidence during the Solomon Islands and Australia Mutual Aid talks with Australian Defence officials at the Honiara Mendana Hotel in May 1998. (Interestingly, the same, basic, facts used for the intervention of RAMSI in 2003).

The threats focused on the prevailing social conditions in the Honiara settlements and the need for Government action in addressing its policing obligations, given the run-down state of the Royal Solomon Islands Police, particularly, the shortgages in manpower, resources, facilities and equipment.

I also spoke, on both occasions, of the likely threats of future criminal activities including housebreaking and theft, substance abuse, vandalism, unlawful assembly, looting, rioting and even the potential for transnational crime, given the widescale urban drift, unemployment and an underprivileged social class.

It is sad to reflect that given all my early warnings, the Solomon Islands suffered the tragic, wasted years of the inter-island ethnic violence and the outcome of the 2006 April riot report merely paints a more depressing picture of the decline in social standards in the Honiara urban settlements with the threat of rioting re-occuring in the future.

I supported the call for a Commission of Inquiry into the causes of the 2006 riots and I take no comfort from the fact that the police services were found to have been ill-prepared. The senior local officers of the RSIP were aware of the standard laid down procedure for dealing with potential hostilities and it is surprising to me that in the latest RSIP media release the police spokesperson said, "These riots in Honiara in April 2006, the acts of violence - people throwing rocks, arson and other damage in the Chinatown business district - shocked us all."

It was, unfortunately, a common practice for such acts to occur during disturbances in Honiara, especially during crowd disturbances at football matches, over disputed court cases and over land disputes, as well as at settlements on the outskirts of Honiara.

The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force is now said to be better equipped and trained to deal with future trouble and this is welcomed, but it has come at the expense of years of hostilities which divided a nation, the intervention of RAMSI and a Commission of Inquiry with a predictable outcome.

Yours sincerely,
Frank Short