It is unfortunate that my earlier letter regarding police preparedness for Election Day, published last Wednesday, degenerated into criticism of RAMSI.
My comments were prompted by what I considered to have been an unnecessary, visible display of weapons being carried by either military personnel in camouflage uniforms, or police officers serving with RAMSI.
Military assistance in aid of the civil power is tightly legislated in many countries. In Germany, for example, the post-war constitution of Germany strictly forbids the use of military force in police functions. Even in Australia, military deployment in aid of the civil power requires the authorisation of the particular State government.
RAMSI's Operation Helpem Fren in 2003 represented a new model of regional intervention involving the military and a full compliment of economic, police and diplomatic assets.
The initial role of the military was to protect and support the visiting police as they went about trying to establish the rule of law.
Care was initially taken to ensure that the military presence was not seen to be something akin to an invasion and extra precautions were made not to give photographers and journalists the opportunity of identifying Honiara as a garrison town that could deter tourists, an essential element of the Solomon's faltering economy.
It is now seven years on since RAMSI's intervention and the strict guidelines that were first laid down to protect Solomon's international image.
Regrettably, RAMSI's publicity machine appears to have faltered in neglecting the Solomon's image abroad when allowing photographs to be used that do, indeed, still give the impression of a country under armed occupation.
RAMSI has much to its credit in humanitarian aid to the Solomons and perhaps that aspect of its role should feature more often.
Yes, there were some relatively minor incidents following the counting of the votes and announcements of the election results, but nothing that the local police force could not easily manage, given the improvements in their training and operational readiness.
Police preparedness, aided by RAMSI personnel, clearly helped to ensure a mainly trouble free election, but I believe it is timely for the military components to be less visible and for the civil power, the police, to become more noticeable and to take on their primary duties in enforcing law and order alone.
Military Assistance in Aid of Civil Power
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of Frank Short and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.
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