4 Jul 2013

Solomons requires decades of development support: RAMSI

4:56 pm on 4 July 2013

The head of the regional peacekeeping force deployed to Solomon Islands 10 years ago to quell civil conflict says this year's people's survey confirms the country will need decades of development assistance.

The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands or RAMSI has released its sixth People's Survey, which captures the views of almost three-and-a-half thousand people on causes of conflict in the community and other issues.

Considerable dissatisfaction with the police force is among the findings of the survey, coinciding with RAMSI's downsizing this month to a policing-only mission.

The special co-ordinator, Nicholas Coppel, told Annell Husband RAMSI has accomplished most of the work it sought to do but the survey shows there is still a lot to be done in the areas of alcohol abuse and gender-based violence

NICHOLAS COPPEL: We're seeing a breakdown in many communities of traditional chiefly roles and discipline within communities. And those communities are now calling on the police force to come and solve these problems. But it's extremely difficult to get to many of these communities so the police... The public are expecting more of the police but also disappointed at the response. I think there needs to be some adjustment of expectations, as well. It's a lot to ask of a police force to spend several hours in a boat going to a community because they're unable to control youths who are drinking or men who are beating their wives. These are areas that have traditionally been dealt with by communities. So it's a difficult job.

ANNELL HUSBAND: So is that something that the participating police force will be working to improve?

NC: We will. A lot of the focus in the next few years is going to be on leadership and on management of the police force, in particular, the area of maintenance of assets, the logistics issues. Because they're poor in those areas, they're having difficulty delivering services to remote communities. Finance, IT, human resources - a lot of those headquarter corporate areas are not very strong in the RSIPF, so we're going to put a lot of effort into that over the next few years. And that will mean we will be better at deploying officers, rotating them through the provinces, and providing the resources to the provincial police so they can do their job. Because it's not just about giving the resources. There is an issue in relation to the management and within the police force and we need to really tackle that cause of the problem.

AH: In view of the findings of this survey, would you say that the country is in good shape for this transition to take place?

NC: I think that's true, but the survey and, indeed, other statistics show that militancy has come to an end and those serious law and order problems have been dealt with. But the Solomon Islands is still a low-income country which is going to require development assistance for several decades to come.