Leader of Opposition Hon Matthew Wale has slammed Australia’s decision to supply guns to Solomon Islands describing it as ‘very disturbing’.
Hon Wale made the statement following the handing over of 60 Daniel’s Defense MKN type rifles to the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force at a ceremony held at the Rove Police Headquarters yesterday.
The Opposition Leader questioned why the police force needed the high-powered guns.
Leader of Opposition Mathew Wale
Hon Wale said Solomon Islands has a dark history with guns and with recent events involving the public demonstrating their frustration against the government, one can easily speculate that the guns are to be used against own citizens.
He said if this is the case then it is very worrying.
“Obviously we do not have external threats so why the introduction of these high-powered guns? Or are we on the pathway of being militarised again? If it is none of the two matters raised above then we are arming ourselves against our own citizens,” Hon Wale said.
Hon Wale also questioned whether the supply of guns is a request from the national government or a gift from Australia.
The Opposition Leader said he is worried that the concerns he has raised in the past on geopolitics and Solomon Islands becoming the playground where big powers play are slowly unfolding.
He said Australia’s anxiety is obvious and it is pushing them to counter China’s ‘gun diplomacy’ in Solomon Islands.
“It is clear Australia is anxious that if they do not supply guns then China will. Geopolitical interests have surpassed national interest in this country and it is a sad state of affairs,” he said.
The Opposition Leader said the guns might be put to good use at protecting the Shortlands border but not in Honiara.
Hon Wale during his visit to Shortlands in 2020 raised the need for high-powered weapons capability at the border to prevent illegal activities at our international border in Shortlands.
However, Hon Wale said guns should never be the answer to our domestic security, social and economical problems in this country.
“The root causes of these problems lie in the lack of sound economic policies which guns cannot solve,” he said.
In his statement during the handing over released by the Prime Minister’s Press Secretariat, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare highlighted the importance of a well-equipped police force.
“The answer as to why we focus so much on security is simple; it is because of the mere fact that our capacity is limited, and there is an overall need for its enhancement. Investors’ confidence is important but we cannot have it without a robust security capability,” Mr Sogavare said.
He further highlighted that it is the sworn duty of the government of the day “…to ensure the protection of liberty, life, wellbeing, and property of its citizens and any persons within Solomon Islands.”
PM Sogavare inspecting the Daniels Defence MK18 rifles (Photo: Prime Minister’s Press Secretariat)
The Prime Minister also reinforced the message that ‘we should bring back trust and confidence in our police force and that the provision of the capabilities and professional training offered are the right step in that direction.’
He said he is aware of the elevated arms program for the police force, and reiterated that police must have the responsibility to ensure these arms are kept well so as not to end up in the wrong hands.
The Prime Minister added law and order is an enabler for development and that as a country we must have the capability to protect ourselves.
“Law and order is an enabler for development, and it is important that as a Sovereign State, we are able to better protect ourselves, deliver on our security mandates, and confront threats when it looms,” he said.
The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) yesterday received 13 vehicles and 60 short barrel rifles from Australia.
The vehicles and rifles were provided under the RSIPF and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) Policing Partnership Program (RAPPP).
AFP Acting Deputy Commissioner Lesa Gale said the four vehicles for the RSIPF mobile protection unit have been designed specifically to support protection of critical infrastructure, high office holders and dignitaries.
AFP Acting Deputy Commissioner Lesa Gale speaking to the media after the handing over (Photo: RSIPF Media)
Nine vehicles for the Police Response Team (PRT) are to enhance capability to safely respond to high risk incidents and public order management.
She explained the 60 Daniel Defence rifles are to boost the RSIPF’s capability in specialist response operations to counter criminal threats and maintain peace and stability.