Dear Editor

In a letter published in the Island Sun on 15 July 2016 there appeared the following commentary contributed by Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI) and I quote:

“Transparency Solomon Islands commends the Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Soqavare, and his DCC government, Hon Jeremiah Manele the Official Opposition Leader and Dr Derek Sikua Leader of Independent Group in acknowledging, recognising and agreeing that corruption, corrupt conduct and corrupt practices needs to be addressed now if we really care about the peaceful, fair and sustainable development of Solomon Islands. There is therefore no reason whatsoever to object to the establishment of the ICAC currently planned and proposed by PM Sogavare and the DCC Government. The country has long needed effective institutions to fight official corruption, and the draft laws now waiting for parliamentary process have been carefully designed to do that, through a detailed process of local and external collaboration in the drafting.”

In the context of tackling corruption and in the light of my recent article in the local print media, in which I raised my personal views on the need for the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) to be properly, logistically resourced by the time the Regional Assistance Mission (RAMSI) leaves the Solomon Islands next June, I would like now to turn attention to the idea of a pool of local, academic talent the Prime Minister is hoping will gain higher degrees and then secure overseas employment in order to remit part of their earnings back home.

In principle the proposal has my support but it may not come easy to secure overseas jobs, whatever the quality of the candidates and the academic qualifications they might hold.

Firstly, issues of citizenship might prevent employment in a foreign country and, secondly, the idea pre-supposes Solomon Islanders with higher qualifications would want to move abroad.

I once worked as the Senior Legal Administrative Officer to the Member of the Executive Council responsible for Safety and Security in the North West Provincial Government in South Africa.

I was recommended to apply for a higher position leading the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in the Cape Province but my application could not be considered because I was not a citizen of South Africa, but British.

There are many countries, including close regional ones that have similar policies when it comes to the recruitment of overseas applicants without citizenship or resident rights.

In 1999 the Strategic Review of the Solomon Islands conducted by Australia, at the request of the then Solomon Islands Government came up with many proposals for the longer term consideration of the government. One such proposal read (quote).

“With the growing sophistication of crime, the CID’s scientific capabilities for analysing evidence will need to grow, possibly with the establishment of a small national laboratory. Similarly, more sophisticated skills for investigating ‘white collar’ crime, especially in accounting and computing, may be gradually introduced. The important requirement will be to make sure that any changes in these areas are matched by the training of appropriate personnel and the development of the capacity to provide at least first line maintenance for those capabilities in the country.”

Those comments in the Strategic Review were made in 1999 and my question is do such capabilities exist in the RSIPF today, less than one year before RAMSI leaves?

In 2013, I highlighted some of the same concerns in a letter which was then published in the ‘Opinions' column of this publication and readers can still see what I had to say at that time.

I hope that assurances will be forthcoming that the pre-requisite skills and competency training has provided the RSIPF with the right personnel to deal with ‘white collar’ crimes and to be able to fully and competently deal with allegations of corruption that might be referred to the Force once the ICAC legislation becomes law in the absence of RAMSI.

Once a local ICAC is being readied, then it would be my suggestion that the investigative , prosecution and management positions, including top-management vacancies be filled by qualified, local academics that might have been induced by the Prime Minister to aim for higher qualifications, but decided to stay at home and to serve the country with professionalism, integrity and pride.

What better calling could there be for them to help rid the country of corruption and corrupt practices?

Yours sincerely

Frank Short