BY JOHN HOUANIHAU
THE past stories of UXO impacts serves to highlight how critical and important to take urgent action and as a govt we are tasked with ensuring the security of our people and to accept any support that aims to protect and keep our people safe.
This was according of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare when delivering his key note address during the launched of the package support on explosive Ordinance between Australia and Solomon Islands last month.
“Let me thank the Australian government especially the Australian defence force for the offer to support the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force in enhancing the capacity to deal with UXOs.
“We come a long way in our discussions to establish this types of cooperation, and today we here to witness the manifestation of this corporation with one of our very important partner Australia,” said the Prime minister during the event.
He said that for over 75 years, Solomon Island people had to live with issue of Unexploded Ordinance (UXO) an ugly legacy of WW2, a global conflict that affected the whole world some 79 plus years ago.
Hon. Sogavare added that SI as a country is experiencing the effects of this war to this day. Other Pacific Island Countries which have had this war fought on their shores remains heavily contaminated with UXO, both on land and sea.
“We are once amongst one of the most worst affected countries in the Pacific and this terrible legacy continues to have a devastating impact on people’s lives up to this day.
“It is sad to highlight that in the past years alone we have to experience loss of lives as the earlier incident this year that took the lives of two young Solomon Islanders. Prior to that, two foreign nationals who were tasked to work with these UXOs also lost their lives,” he said.
Thus, he said the DCGA sees this as an ever present danger to the wellbeing and safety of people and the government continue to strive to provide the best training possible to the discipline force to deal with this legacy, a conflict that was not of our own making.
He stated that the SI Police force Explosive Ordinance Disposal team is the only specialized unit mandated to deal with UXOs and though they are limited in resources, they continue to do a great job under challenging circumstances.
“They have a time to continue to bring high repute to their expert fields amongst their pacific peers and for this I salute them for the work they do each day to keep our people safe,’’ said Hon Sogavare.
He added that conducting explosive clearance operation and awareness activities to our Communities is an important but dangerous job. This men and women continue to put their lives at risk to ensure that citizens enjoy a safe and secure environment free from UXOs.
“As we marked the launching of the UXO package support from the Australian govt I would like to take this opportunity to deeply acknowledge and thank Australia for this corporation in enhancing the SI – EODT capabilities, it has certainly come at the right time.
He said that he is heartened to see the continuous support offered by Australia to EODT with the initial package been delivered by pre-existing EOD corporation between Australia-SI under the Defence cooperation since 2019 and pleased to note that both Nations continue to build on this corporation.
“It’s a partnership that is growing and reflect a true friendship between our two countries and people.
“And now I’m very pleased to be here to launch the package support on explosive Ordinance between our two countries. In fact the govt understand that the more coordinated and whole of govt approach is needed to tackle UXOs issues and we are committed to this.
“This is in the govt interest through the ministry of Police and National Security and Correctional service that necessary review be carried out to Enhanced the capacity capability corporation and operation of our national UXO policy and UXO action plan.
“This reviewed policy and action plan must drive to produce a corporation mechanism which stakeholders, NGOs, civil society and international organization to implement range of middle measures to address the UXO problems.
“This includes awareness programs, Community Corporation, and UXO identification programs. An important part of the action plan must include increasing the awareness program to the population and the danger of UXO and this is not to scare our people but to continue to educate them on the need to report suspicious on objects that may potentially life threatening.