Security concerns in Solomon Islands disaster zone | Pacific Beat

Security concerns in Solomon Islands disaster zone

Security concerns in Solomon Islands disaster zone

Updated 15 February 2013, 18:05 AEDT

Police in the Solomon Islands are becoming increasingly concerned about security in the country's earthquake stricken Temotu Province.

It follows two incidents on Wednesday.

In one, an illegal roadblock was set up in an attempt to extort relief supplies.

And in the other, a car crash resulted in a large crowd gathering at the police station in Lata.

A police contingent from Honiara, inlcuding the Deputy Commisioner, has been sent to Temotu to help.

Presenter: Sam Bolitho

Speaker: Solomon Islands Police Commissioner John Lansley

LANSLEY: A road block had been put up by some people to express their thought that they were not receiving supplies quickly enough and this then prompted a discussion with the police about removing the road block. This subsequently also sadly on the same day, a road traffic accident took place, which I'm pleased to say the victim is recovering from, but this sadly prompted a reaction to the road traffic accident, which brought people down to the police station and they threatened the police station. This is unacceptable and therefore we consider it was necessary to send the Deputy Commissioner for the Royal Solomon Islands Police to the region, who he went yesterday to Lata. He mediated with the people, he'd been assured that the road blocks will not, not continue and he also talked to the people who were involved in, in the, the incident involving the police station. One person has been arrested and is currently in custody with the police.

BOLITHO: So how many police officers have been sent now?

LANSLEY: We sent the Deputy Commissioner as I said and four additional police response team officers who are specifically trained for this rapid response process to supplement. We already have the 30 officers down there, a very good contingent, but primarily our job is to help the security of the distribution of the, the relief supplies, ensure the security of the supplies in the warehouses and I have to say it's disappointing that we are being diverted from these tasks by people causing criminal activity.

BOLITHO: And is there any time frame on how long these police officers will be there for?

LANSLEY: Our purpose is to ensure that the security is maintained down there and security of the distribution. The distribution is certainly in the initial phase is planned for at least another week, so we did initially consider sending our officers for 14 days and that's still our understanding. We are making a decision next week on whether they are rotated or whether we bring the officers back without supplementing the staff down at Lata.

BOLITHO: There's been a proposal to ban alcohol in the area. What's the police position on that issue?

LANSLEY: Yes, it's still being discussed and no alcohol ban has come in yet. There are advantage and disadvantages with alcohol bans. One of the disadvantages are that communication of the ban is of course, complex in such situations, particularly in a disaster relief area, where communications are sometimes not very widespread. Secondly, it diverts officers from our task in supporting the relief agencies by having to enforce such a ban. I believe there also are significant public order legislation which can mean that we can deal with anybody who is transgressing from the law in relation to alcohol under that legislation. So there are disadvantages with the, with the introducing of a ban,

Having said that the advantages that it makes it quite clear that under such circumstances, a misuse of alcohol cannot be tolerated. So that would be the advantage to make it very clear that this is not appropriate in such circumstances that we are experiencing down in Lata at the moment.

BOLITHO: And are there alcohol problems presently?

LANSLEY: Yes, this threat to the police station as I mentioned earlier was certainly associated with a degree of alcohol and that is what has what has been prompted to consider asking for a ban, but as I say, it's not been introduced yet.

BOLITHO: And you mentioned the road block. With incidents like these, is it merely opportunists or is it an act of desperation for supplies?

LANSLEY: No, I think it's slightly an opportunist. I think there are people in great need down there and we are doing our utmost to ensure that people are receiving the supplies. But we have to prioritise on the supplies and by we, I'm talking about the relief agencies, rather than the police. We give support and security to these, but the relief agencies have to prioritise and some people, sometimes people don't understand the priorities that have to be made. We have to make sure that the relief supplies are received by the right people at the right time and that sometimes is difficult to communicate to some people. So I think it in some ways a reaction to perhaps people not understanding that why some people are getting supplies and others aren't and also, perhaps a reaction to the fact that in some ways, people felt that their supplies weren't getting to them quickly enough.

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