5 Feb 2007

Solomon Islands PM hits out at opponents of plan to re-arm local police

7:35 pm on 5 February 2007

The Solomon Islands Prime Minister says a plan by his government to re-arm the nation's police is being misrepresented by opponents to create fear among the population.

Many Solomon Islanders fear that re-arming the police risks a return to the violence experienced during the island nation's ethnic tensions of recent years.

But Manasseh Sogavare is playing down those fears, saying that they are not planning on re-arming the entire country, despite how it's being put across.

Mr Sogavare says his government has a clear and simple plan to reform and re-arm certain units of the police, starting with police bodyguards who protect him and the governor-general.

He says it is a very controlled programme which relates to disciplined officers.

Mr Sogavare says opponents of the scheme simply wanted to discredit the government, and he called on the parliamentary Opposition not to instil unnecessary fear in the public.

His plan is opposed by the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) as well as the parliamentary Opposition, the National Council of Women, church groups and other non-government organisations.