TRANSPARENCY Solomon Islands (TSI) is not only concern but condemn the Royal Solomon Islands Police for accepting gifts from the Chinese Embassy and from Chinese State- and privately-owned businesses operating in Solomon Islands. The Chinese Embassy, China State-owned and private owned business are urged not to repeat this practice ever again to Solomon Islands Royal Police Force or to any government institutions for that matter. It is a bad practice and one which here in Solomon Islands will undermine the independence of Police Force, police officers alike in the performance of their duties and responsibilities. Already in the rural areas where there is logging disputes as people try to protect their customary properties, the police have been alleged to only be on the side of these Asian business companies doing business with China and not the people who own these natural resources.
Here Transparency Solomon Islands refers to the recent handing over of gifts as new year presents by the Chinese Embassy along with Chinese state and privately-owned companies and the Chinese community in Solomon Islands to police officers. This is a deplorable act on the side of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force for accepting the gift and on the side on the Chinese Embassy, state- and privately-owned Chinese business for giving the gift in the first place. In this regard Transparency Solomon Islands calls on the Commissioner of Police to put in place an internal Anti-Corruption Policy to deal with gift giving and any other rewards given to police officers that is likely to compromise their independence in the performance of their roles and functions. In relation to this and with regard to officers, Transparency Solomon Islands is aware of an incidence just before the end of 2020, a police traffic vehicle with a lady police officer and a male police officer were chasing a Chinese driven vehicle. They stopped it and the lady went to the vehicle and got given money which she pocketed and let the vehicle continue on its way. The easy with which police accepted these gifts and this incidence suggests that this practice is not only new but worrying and needs addressing. It is a serious matter and one which must not be repeated, nor encouraged.
The said gifts were presented to officers at the Honiara Central Police Station and were well received with warm welcome by the Police Commander Honiara City, Superintendent John Matamaru and Assistant Commissioner Simpson Pogeava and their team. The items donated were combined foodstuff and solar lanterns presented as New Year gifts to police officers. The gifts might be presented with no intention to compromise the work of the police, still Transparency Solomon Islands urges Assistant Commissioner Simpson Poqeava and Superintendent John Matamaru never to accept any gifts from any group, organizations or individuals be it cash, valuable items or any form of thing that may put the independence of police in question. More importantly, being high-ranking police officers, they should be well-versed with issues of conflict of interest and there is no excuse for not knowing that such an act will likely compromise the image, integrity and independence of the police force and officers who work within the force both nationally and internationally. You are regulated officers and part of the National Integrity System of the Government and there is absolutely no excuse for this.
Transparency Solomon Islands call for the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) to abide by the principles and policies that will maintain and boost the independence of their roles as law enforcers throughout the nation, indiscriminately. The principles safeguarding the everyday conduct of police officers in discharging their duties is certainly going to be compromised by gifts offered by people. Not only that but only the rich can do that and the poor and Solomon Islanders at large will be denied your services. If the RSIPF has no policies to address the acceptance of hospitality and offering of gifts then it is time that they create one that will guide the work of the officers throughout the country. But if the principles and policies are there then live by it and remind all our hardworking officers to say no to gifts or hospitality offered by people outside of police. Whether the offer comes as a form of bribe or some kind of appreciation for the work done, police officers must always say no. TSI is aware that offering of gifts to police officers has been practiced in the country without any attempt by the head of the RSIPF to discourage it, maybe because Commissioner of Police is not aware or that he regarded the matter as a minor thing to deal with. That is however not the case. Already our legal instruments have been tampered with and so far, there is no investigation being conducted [i.e., the fake Tubi gazette for example] further bringing to the forefront the need for police to be independent at all times. Transparency Solomon Islands urges the Commissioner of Police and his team of administrators to take the matter seriously as it certainly has an impact on the independence of police.
Transparency Solomon Islands remind companies, politicians, diplomats, private organizations and individuals that offering of gifts to police as a means of appreciation for their work should be communicated directly to the Commissioner of Police, but not the police officers or the commander in charge in whichever regions they served. Any appreciation should be in the form that benefits the work of the police which was done in the past where Taiwan and others improved police housing, transportation etc. A simple letter of expression of appreciation and acknowledgement would have been adequate. Any form of direct assistance to police work from outside, in the form of material thing or cash should be done at the government level through the Ministry responsible and the office of the Commissioner of Police. To offer gifts directly to police officers and their superintendents as Christmas gifts for their hard work is a breach of their policy guideline. Such gifts only result in undermining and comprising the integrity, image, independence, confidence, and trust that people should have in police.
Having cautioned the Royal Solomon Islands Police on gift receiving, Transparency Solomon Islands appreciates all the good work done by police and their confidence to report bribes etc. throughout 2020. The maintenance of peace and security in the country in the face of Covid-19 is much appreciated. This is a glitch that should never have been presented before you and must not be done again. Transparency Solomon Islands appreciates, values, and recognizes the important work that Police plays in the fight against corruption. You are the ones who actually bites instead of barking. The police investigate corruption, arrest, and prosecute the culprits, which is an integral aspect of the collective role in eradicating corruption in Solomon Islands. The case being referred to in this article is an unfortunate incidence orchestrated by the Chinese Embassy and China State-owned and privately owned businesses. TSI will continue to work in collaboration with RSIPF this year 2021 fighting corruption to rolling it back not to suppress, undermine and suffocate development in Solomon Islands.