Dear Editor

Recent political instability has delayed the Solomon Islands SB$2 billion 2011 budget but it is expected to pass the scrutiny of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and be tabled relatively soon in the Parliament.

It is to be hoped that the new budget will ensure a continued commitment to developing and implementing programmes and policies that will not only sustain the economy and growth of the country, but also recognise the need to meet the financial costs of improving the logistical and training requirements of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIP), given the medium to long term security challenges facing the nation.

One need only consider the gloomy forecast given by Dr Mathew Allen of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute when he said, last week on Radio Australia , that the Solomon Islands are entering a high risk period of conflict due the expected collapse of the logging industry by 2015. Dr Allen went on to add that the collapse would "only increase the risk of violent conflict." If one accepts what Dr Allen has predicted, then the problems that have already emerged in relation to youth unemployment and their disillusionment, a distinct shift of population into Honiara , drugs and substance abuse, including alcohol, all are helping to exacerbate the weaknesses in the nation's security arrangements and the continued dependence on RAMSI.

Given that it was announced last week that the Police and Correctional Services budget is to be cut this year by SB$10 million it must yet, again, impair the effectiveness of the RSIP to stand on its own feet and continue to have to rely on the already generous support and help of RAMSI to meet more than 50% of the force's logistical needs to remain operationally effective.

An incident at Lata, however, on 26 February 2011 found the police there unable to respond to a drunken brawl because they had too few resources and their police vehicle was stoned by some 30 men. One of the policemen, James Tela, later said that Lata Police Station, "like other police stations around the country (lacks) logistics and manpower", and a contributing factor why the police failed to attend so many reported incidents. The Lata incident, alone, highlights what is a real and continuing problem for the local police in meeting public expectations.

Mr Peter Marshall, the recently retired Commissioner of the RSIP, told the Sun newspaper on 16 February before he left Honiara, "At the moment there are inadequate chances that the RSIP can survive on its own seeing that almost 50 percent of the logistics including other means are supported for by RAMSI," he added.

Australia and New Zealand are the principal contributors to the regional assistance mission and both countries, sadly, have experienced recent, tragic and major disasters and yet are likely to continue their aid, but their assistance must be hurting financially at a time of their own great domestic needs.

One can only express gratitude and admiration, but the Solomon Islands Government must be encouraged to share the burden and to work to promote stability and security by enhancing the equipment and requirements of the RSIP. I remain confident that the government will for, to do less, could see the RSIP remain in the sorry state of unpreparedness it was, logistically and resource wise, at the onset of the island's ethnic conflict 11 years ago.

The RSIP has a duty, too, to ensure proper maintenance and use of all allocated equipment to offset repair costs and to maintain operational efficiency and effectiveness.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short