The 17th Pacific Games have begun in Honiara, and Australia has not let their presence go unnoticed. Along with a $17 million investment into the games’ facilities, there are 350 military personnel and 100 Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers on the ground helping the Solomon Islands host the event for the first time on its 60th anniversary.
From 19 November to 2 December, 5000 athletes from 24 countries across the Pacific will compete in 24 sports, including 76 from Australia, accompanied by Governor-General David Hurley. He’ll be competing for the attention of Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare alongside other representatives from across the globe hoping get on good terms with the island state.
Around 80 per cent of the games’ facilities have been funded by other countries. Notably, China contributed a total of $120 million, of which $70 million built the Solomon Islands’ new national stadium.
Last year, the country signed a security treaty with China, which along with metal detectors and CCTV operations, has brought a patrol force to the games following an invitation from the Sogavare Government.
In charge of security for the games is the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF), which the AFP has been assisting through its partnership program to develop its operational planning and enhanced capabilities ahead of the event.
The support provided includes funding and management of critical infrastructure projects such as rebuilding the Kukum Police Station and upgrading the Police Operations Centre, establishing a Drone Support Unit, improving forensic capability, bolstering equipment and providing vehicles such as the tEODor Remote Positioning Vehicle to help the RSIPF manage any risk of explosive devices.
The AFP has also facilitated training workshops in public order management and close personal protection, along with exchange programs to Australia so RSIPF officers can develop their abilities in areas like aviation, intelligence, major events planning and protection.
Fire and Rescue NSW has been included in the partnership program to provide resources and training to the RSIPF so the island is prepared for any major fire events that might threaten the population throughout the next busy year.
“The handing over of the equipment by the AFP is timely as the RSIPF prepares for the 2023 Pacific Games and 2024 National General Elections,” Chief Superintendent Francis Ramoni, director of the National Respond Department (NRD), said on behalf of RSIPF Commissioner Mostyn Mangau.
“The equipment is an addition to the ongoing capability provided by the AFP in support of the RSIPF Fire and Rescue operations and tactical daily operation and response.
“On behalf of the Commissioner and RSIPF Executive, I would like to thank the AFP for providing the equipment. This is yet another demonstration that Australia is the RSIPF’s major supporting partner in the Pacific region.”
In the lead-up to the games, AFP members who live and work in Solomon Islands have been volunteering their time to help local athletes prepare for the competition.
Among the advisors are the head coaches of the country’s judo and golf teams, along with a SINIS track sprint coach who helped the 95 athletes he’s been training to win over 40 medals at the Solomon Games earlier this year.
“There are a lot of players who will be competitive at the Pacific Games, but the main thing is that they enjoy themselves,” AFP Advisor and 40-year judo practitioner Kevin Shaw said.
“This is the first competition for all the athletes, so as long as they enjoy themselves and they learn from it, they will just get better and better.”
“I am very excited to represent my country in front of a home crowd. I have been playing here for more than 20 years and can’t wait to showcase my skills,” golf athlete Ravatu Tabe said, who has been under the tutelage of former professional golfer and AFP Senior Constable Nathan Weaver.
“We are so blessed to have had the opportunity to train under Nathan, who has taught us new skills and given us a lot of confidence in preparation for the Pacific Games.”
Not too far away in Samoa, the AFP has recently donated eight electronic bikes and provided specialised training to the local Police, Prisons and Corrections Services.
In a similar light to the Solomon Islands, the support is to help the island nation prepare to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in October 2024. The new bikes are kitted out with lights and service bags, allowing officers to patrol communities and visit more remote areas not accessible by cars.