Dear Editor,

In last Friday's edition of the Solomon Star newspaper, a letter was published from a Paul Raogara, writing from Honiara, claiming that the local members of the Royal Solomon Islands Police involved in security duties at Lawson Tama, for the playing of a Solomon's Cup soccer fixture, did not have the proper riot equipment or protective clothing. He added that it was no wonder they fled for their lives when attacked with stones.

If what Mr Raogara wrote was true, then it raises concerns about the safety and welfare of the local members of the police when deployed, alone, on front line operations.

Police officers are mandated by law to protect the public and for the preservation of public order. They often run a high risk of being attacked, wounded, or even killed and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), through its various Conventions, has sought to prescribe the dangerous nature of a policeman's job, including laying down guidelines for the equipment and protective clothing to be issued to them.

In those countries where the ILO Conventions have been ratified and laws enacted "employees" are generally protected by Welfare and Security clauses under the national provisions of Labour Law, Employment Law and Workers Compensation Law, but I have noted that The Solomon Islands Labour Act, Cap. 73, merely provides for the Minister under, RULES - PART XI- quote - (w) "providing generally for the protection of workers." 20 of 1964, s. 25. Moreover, the members of the police service are excluded from the provisions of the Act.

The PoliceCommissioner, in terms of Section 7 (2) of the Police Act, Cap 110,
may "b) from time to time make orders for the general government of police officers in relation to their enlistment, discharge, training, arms, clothing, equipment and other appointments, and particular services as well as their distribution and inspection, and such other orders as he may deem expedient for preventing neglect and for promoting efficiency and discipline on the part of police officers in the discharge of their duties."

In other words, the Police Commissioner, still has, unless my interpretation is wrong, the power to make orders for the issuing of clothing and equipment for the protection of his personnel when facing hazardous duties.

Referring back to what Mr Raogara wrote in his article, his words seem to echo what I believe was also said in testimony to the Commission of Inquiry into the Honiara Riots when it was claimed the local members of the RSIP were even then ( in 2006) inadequately protected and equipped to deal with the outbreak of violence when it first occurred at the National Parliament.

I was one of the very first to condemn the involvement of some elements of the RSIP in abrogating their oath of office and involving themselves with the unlawful actions of the militants on both sides during the period of the ethnic tension; actions which have forever tainted the once proud record of service and loyalty to the nation.

That said, however, it is now 2009 and whether or not ILO Labour Law Conventions on Workers/Employees Welfare and Safety requirements have been ratified in the Solomons, I believe there is a moral, if not yet a legal duty, on the Solomon Islands Government to protect and equip, "Our Boy's," as Mr Rarogara put it, if they are to continue to be deployed "first in line."

If the local members of the RSIP are considered to be properly equipped with the riot gear needed to deal with a riotous, or potentially violent situation, and have the body armour and safety equipment to protect them, prior to the deployment of "other" back-up personnel, then perhaps someone in authority should challenge the allegations made by Mr Raogara.

Yours sincerely,

Frank Short