Last week's disturbances in Honiara raise concerns on two fronts. The near riot and minor looting in China Town, followed by the arrest and prosecution of the alleged juvenile perpetrators, should further alert the responsible government authorities to the tinder box imposed by an idle youth. A big concern is, and will remain, given the existing economic outlook and climate, the question of job creation and the promotion of livelihood opportunities, especially for the economically excluded and socially vulnerable youth living in the mushrooming squatter like settlements around the national capital.
Solomon's youth problems must be addressed with renewed government initiatives with a full realisation of the precariousness of youth livelihoods and the negative consequences, social and economic, of failing to find youth friendly policies to alleviate their plight.
I previously drew attention to Solomon's youth concerns in articles that I contributed to the Pacific Islands Report entitled - "Solomons Youth in Urgent Need of Attention" (October 3, 2003), and "Idle Solomons Youth A Tinder Box" ( December, 10, 2009). I also suggested in an article published in The Solomon Times On Line website that the South Korean Government might be able to assist the Solomons Government with youth training programmes encouraging leadership and team work.
The second concern highlighted by last week's disturbances, relates to the policing of the situation and particularly, once again, why looters were able to reach and penetrate China Town without being prevented by an adequate police presence.
It was reported in the Solomon Star newspaper on 2 December that local officers of the RSIP were unarmed when sent to confront an angry mob in China Town and the report went on to add that the officers had to flee when rocks "rained" down on them.
In contrast it was said, the PPF officers wore riot gear and were armed and felt confident to confront the mob and make arrests.
While it is true that officers equipped with riot gear can often be viewed as provocative by peaceful protesters and generally operational practice is to keep such personnel in reserve, deploying them only should an outbreak of violence occur.
From all the reports that I have read, it was reasonable to assume there was the likelihood of trouble occurring should Jimmy Lusibaea be convicted and sentenced and police operational planning and deployment was in place before the court's decision.
If the police had intelligence to indicate the possibility of violence which, again seems reasonable to assume was the case, then all the police personnel should, in my opinion, have been equipped with protective equipment prior to their deployment but they were not and the local officers were disadvantaged and put at risk in the execution of their duties in China Town.
If one set of officers is going to be on the front line, they should not have to wait to get hurt before the second group of reserves come to their aid.
Concerns Arising From Honiara Disturbances
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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