Responding to law and order emergencies
In the previous chapter, the committee suggested that an efficient and
well-resourced policing organisation is crucial for national stability and
longer-term development. Moreover, that law enforcement agencies need to be
supported by a robust law and justice sector. In this chapter, the committee
considers instances when breakdowns in law and have been so severe that states
have requested outside assistance to help restore peace. The chapter begins by
examining how the Pacific community has come together to address such
challenges before considering Australian initiatives to assist in response to
regional crises. Thereafter, the committee examines the proposal for
establishing a standing regional police force. The chapter does not address
emergency responses to natural disasters as these are dealt with in detail in
There have been numerous instances when Pacific island states have
required outside assistance to manage recent breakdowns in law and order. The
AFP provided an overview of major security and political events to which
Australia has been requested to respond:
Vanuatu—Santo rebellion and major political
Bougainville—secessionist movement and violent conflict
Solomon Islands—conflict between ethnic groups
Solomon Islands—election riots
Tonga—pro-democracy movement march and subsequent
Nauru—police station burnt down
The AFP submission added that Australia's experience 'suggests a trend
towards increasing instability across the Pacific'.
Rapid breakdown in law and order
A number of witnesses expressed concern about the pace with which countries
of the Pacific have, on occasion, descended into a state of lawlessness. The
Department of Defence noted that the rapid deterioration of law and order has
challenged the ability of law enforcement agencies to maintain peace:
Recent history, such as ethnic conflicts in Tonga and Solomon
Islands and the coup in Fiji, has shown how quickly small Pacific Island countries
can be plunged into instability, with serious consequences for their security...
The AFP identified several instances where law enforcement agencies and
governments across the region have struggled to maintain control:
Within all Pacific island countries there are 'trigger
points' that can quickly destabilise communities and lead to potentially
disastrous outcomes through rioting and property damage. Recent examples
include the 2006 riots in Solomon Islands and Tonga. Nauru and Vanuatu have had
smaller scale situations whereby local groups have taken action that challenged
the ability of law enforcement agencies and governments to maintain control,
even if for a short period of time.
Recalling the 2006 riots in Nuku'alofa, which resulted in 60 per cent of
the central business area of the town being burnt down, Australia's High
Commissioner to Tonga, Mr Bruce Hunt, explained how the Tongan police force was
quickly overwhelmed by looters and rioters:
Crime and disorder in Tonga is low—it is not a real issue,
with the exception of the riot. On the day of the riot, unfortunately, the
looters and the rioters were just too many and overwhelmed the police. The
police could not control the riot and the riot spread...immediately after the
riot or in the course of the afternoon of the riot the Australian government
was asked to deploy the ADF and the AFP to Tonga, and they arrived two days
This took place in a society where, as the High Commissioner suggested,
crime and disorder are low.
This evidence builds on the findings contained in Chapter 2 that various
social tensions and root causes of conflict interact to quickly destabilise
Pacific communities. It also builds on evidence outlined in Chapter 3 that
Pacific law enforcement agencies are limited in their ability to respond to
property damage, rioting and violence and that this provides an environment in
which small scale social disturbance may develop into large scale breakdowns in
law and order.
Regional efforts to manage crises
DFAT suggested that the region had been successful in coming together to
address regional security challenges:
The Pacific community has come together in times of crisis to
address regional security problems, with considerable success. The regional
peace monitoring operations in Bougainville and Solomon Islands, RAMSI,
succeeded in restoring stability and law and order without the need for
A range of regional security agreements have been reached: the Honiara
Declaration on Law Enforcement Cooperation (1992), the Aitutaki Declaration on
Regional Security Cooperation (1997) and the Nasonini Declaration (2002). The
declaration which has most successfully provided the Pacific Islands Forum with
a role to play in addressing breakdowns in law and order is the Biketawa
Declaration (2000). There are several key features of the Biketawa security
framework that make it significant: its commitment to upholding democratic
processes and good governance; its recognition of indigenous rights and
cultural values; and its method for addressing crises in the region. The
Biketawa Declaration has been invoked twice since its promulgation: in Solomon
Islands (RAMSI, since 2003) and in the Pacific Regional Assistance to Nauru (PRAN,
The Forum has identified RAMSI, which was mandated by the Biketawa
Declaration, as an example of how the region can work collaboratively to
improve regional security. In June 2009, the Secretary General, Mr Tuiloma
Neroni Slade, praised RAMSI as an 'outstanding achievement' and a 'unique
This position was endorsed in evidence provided to the committee by the Forum
...responding to some of the region's most deeply confronting
challenges, the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands, RAMSI, has
been a true success story. This unique regional partnership, including
contributions since mid-2003 from all forum members, has proved a very positive
experience for the region, underscoring the clear benefits of adopting
collective approaches to addressing security dilemmas. In the Solomon Islands
the situation is very encouraging. We are looking forward to a greater relationship
between RAMSI, the Solomon Islands and the rest of the forum island countries.
Prior to the Biketawa Declaration, there had been the deployment of
regional forces. For example, the coalition to assist in Bougainville in 1994
when the South Pacific Peacekeeping Force (SPPKF)—including New Zealand,
Australia, Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu—brokered a peace agreement between the PNG Government
and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.
This force was followed by the Peace Monitoring Group (PMG) and the establishment
of a UN office (UNPOB) to facilitate the peace process. The PMG was a multi-national
force from Australia, New Zealand, Vanuatu and Fiji. Of the total force of 300,
about 260 were Australian, 240 being military personnel. It was charged with
monitoring the truce and later with weapons disposal. The decision was taken to
deploy this force without arms; as a degree of trust emerged, the force was
reduced from 300 to 75.
As noted in Chapter 2, Fiji has experienced a series of political and
military coups (1987, 2000 and 2006) and a constitutional crisis (1977).
Following the 2006 military coup, the constitution was abrogated, the
independence of the judiciary compromised and free speech curtailed with
critics of the government being detained, questioned and in some cases
deported. These events remain of serious concern to the committee which
believes it is essential that Fiji re-establish the rule of law, rebuild its
democratic institutions and maintain freedom of speech.
The 2006 coup has also had significant repercussions for region
stability. Fiji is critical to the Pacific architecture, it is the home to a
number of regional organisations and serves as a centre for a variety of
regional activities. The fallout from the coup therefore extends well beyond
Fiji, having profound consequences for the region.
The Australia Government has condemned the military's removal of Fiji's
elected government and the more recent abrogation of Fiji's Constitution.
Ministerial-level contact with the interim government has ceased, the Defence
Cooperation Program with Fiji has been suspended and Australia has imposed
travel restrictions on members of the interim government and their families.
However, contact between officials has continued to take place.
AusAID has shifted its assistance to programs that focus on 'supporting social
development and social protection measures around the people of Fiji rather
than activities which are more closely aligned with government'. On the other
hand the Centre for Democratic Institutions has sought to maintain its support
of 'those institutions of democracy that do exist in Fiji'.
The international community has joined Australia in its condemnation of
the interim government. Fiji was suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum in
May 2009 and was suspended from the Commonwealth in September 2009. These
suspensions follow calls from the United Nations Security Council for a prompt
return to constitutional democracy in Fiji. To date, the efforts of the Australian
Government and the international community have gained little traction with the
interim government continuing to prove very difficult to deal with.
On 25 June 2003, when announcing the Australian-led mission to Solomon
Islands to Parliament, Prime Minister John Howard explained that Australia's
commitment to RAMSI represented 'a very significant change in regional policy'.
Prompted by a prospect of 'state failure', the RAMSI deployment signalled a
more proactive approach to the region and the point at which Australia's
development assistance assumed a strong nation-building and security dimension.
Australia's official development assistance contribution to RAMSI, from
the mission's commencement in 2003 until 2008, comprised expenditure by AusAID,
the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the Department of Foreign Affairs and
Trade (DFAT) and the Australian Customs Service (Customs).
4.1: Australia's Official Development Assistance contribution to RAMSI
In its report into Australia's involvement in peacekeeping operations,
the committee suggested that while Australia had been required to assist manage
breakdowns in law and order on a number of occasions in the Pacific, it had
also been important for Australia to work in conjunction with its neighbours.
It noted that the regional character of RAMSI had contributed greatly to its
success. The mission allowed Australia to limit its 'footprint' in the region
while simultaneously helping to build capacity through encouraging indigenous
and regional solutions to law and order challenges. This experience
demonstrated the importance and advantages of Australia joining in partnership
with other states for any future assistance mission. When the committee took
evidence for its inquiry into Australia's involvement in peacekeeping
operations, Dr Bob Breen, ANU, suggested:
In the past 15 years, after receiving short-notice
invitations, Australians have intervened eight times with regional neighbours
to help other neighbours to keep or enforce peace. What have we learned?
Policy: Australia is and will continue to be the lead peacekeeper and peace
enforcer in the South Pacific. We should encourage regional self-help. We
should always include neighbourhood partners in our good neighbour operations.
Peacekeeping operations are tools for emergency response and stabilisation as
well as good offices for peace processes, but intervening forces should not become
garrisons. Good [officers] should be patient but not permanent.
During that inquiry, the committee noted that the AFP had implemented a
number of initiatives that would provide the building blocks for future cooperative
relations with likely peacekeeping partners, particularly from the region. It
cited secondments and exchange and training programs designed to build
relationships with Pacific counterparts. The committee supported this active
engagement in AFP visitor and exchange programs and other activities that
assisted in developing the capacity of countries in the region and that also
lay the foundations for the successful integration of any future peacekeeping
Another important message from RAMSI is that it is easier to restore law
and order and provide a temporary security response to civil conflict, in the
short term, than to confront the systemic social and economic problems or root
causes of disputes. This reinforces the findings in chapters 2 and 3 of this
report about improving levels of human security, addressing the root causes of
conflict and building the capacity of police organisations to deal with social
disturbance, riots, property damage and violence. The committee recalls pertinent
comments made by Dr Bob Breen, cited in Chapter 2:
Sustained higher level intervention is futile unless there is
enduring and effective improvement at the community level. Secure and confident
communities are the foundations for democratic governance and economic
progress. Communities cannot be built or rebuilt unless there is a shared sense
of security and optimism.
A third lesson learned from the experience of RAMSI (along with the
Australian-led peace enforcement mission in Timor-Leste and the Bali bombings
of October 2002) was the need for Australia to provide a coordinated
multi-agency, military, policing and civilian response to crises in the region.
This need was outlined in the committee's report into peacekeeping and has been
acknowledged in the recently-published Defence White Paper, Defending
Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030. Since 2008, the
government has been committed to building an integrated response capability through
the establishment of the Asia Pacific Civil–Military Centre for Excellence. The
Centre for Excellence is designed to better coordinate Australia's response to development,
stabilisation, security or peacebuilding initiatives.
Finally, Australia's experiences in Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands
demonstrated the need for the AFP to develop a capability to respond to serious
breakdowns in law and order. The committee noted in its report on peacekeeping
that the government was lifting the IDG's capability by establishing a
150-strong Operational Response Group (ORG). This initiative was to allow the
IDG to have a group in 'a constant state of readiness for emergency responses
to law and order issues and stabilisation operations'. At that time, the AFP
informed the committee that the ORG had 'highly-skilled capability in crowd
control and riot management with rapid deployment capability, as well as...the
infrastructure to support our offshore missions'. The AFP and the ORG were of
the view that they had learnt a great deal and were then at the 'cutting edge'
with training initiatives.
An AFP member and police
officer from Papua New Guinea working alongside police in Solomon Islands
(image courtesy AFP).
The Australian Defence Force's role
The ADF has also had a significant role in helping to restore law and
order, when asked by Pacific island countries for such assistance. The Defence
White Paper, Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030
After ensuring the defence of Australia from direct attack,
the second priority task for the ADF is to contribute to stability and security
in the South Pacific and East Timor. This involves conducting military
operations, in coalition with others as required, including in relation to
protecting our nationals, providing disaster relief and humanitarian
assistance, and on occasion by way of stabilisation interventions as occurred
in East Timor in 1999 and 2006, and in Solomon Islands in 2003.
Australia will continue to have particular responsibilities
to assist our neighbours in dealing with humanitarian and disaster relief
needs, and to support their stability and security. Given our size and
resources, Australia will be expected to take a leadership role within the
South Pacific if these states are overwhelmed by a natural or man-made crisis.
Again, Defence's contribution was discussed in detail in the committee's
report on peacekeeping such as joint training activities in Australia and
overseas, including multilateral exercises in the South Pacific. At that time,
the ADF indicated that it intended its preparation for peacekeeping operations
to take a 'more prominent place' in its training programs.
The committee endorsed, and continues to support, this development.
Asia Pacific Civil–Military Centre
As noted above, the Asia Pacific Civil–Military Centre of Excellence, which
was opened on 27 November 2008, is a recent major initiative. Managed by the
Department of Defence, the centre seeks to improve the effectiveness of
Australian civilian and military collaboration to prevent, mitigate and respond
to crises in the Asia–Pacific region. It is intended to meet the need,
identified in the Defence White Paper, for integration between defence and
Identifying the Centre for Excellence as a whole-of-government
initiative, Air Commodore Anthony Jones informed the committee that the centre
supports Australian government departments and agencies and the United Nations
and works with a range of bilateral, regional and international partners and
non-government organisations. He suggested that the current responsibilities
and priorities for the centre include: developing a conceptual framework for
civil–military collaboration in conflict and disaster management overseas; work
which aims to support a cohesive and coordinated approach across government to
disaster and conflict assessment, preparedness, response and evaluation
activities; carrying out research, capturing lessons learned, developing
doctrine and facilitating civil–military training programs; developing
cooperative relationships with key Australian, regional and international
The centre's principal areas of focus are conflict prevention, disaster
management, humanitarian assistance and reconstruction; governance and the rule
of law; peace and stabilisation operations. The centre's budget for the 2008–09
fiscal year was $2.2 million, and the annual budget for 2009–10 and 2010–11 is
estimated at $4.6 million.
Since its establishment, the centre has received a range of visits from
partner governments in the region, including delegations from PNG and Tonga. It
is currently assessing a number of relevant training programs which would include
participants from the Pacific. The centre was also represented at the 'Security
Sector Governance in the Pacific Region' conference in Tonga in April 2009. Air
Commodore Jones explained that the centre is scoping potential research
activities that explore 'the synergies between Australia's defence, policing
and international development cooperation programs in the region; and also, the
approaches to relevant capacity building programs in the Pacific'. The centre is currently working with relevant government agencies
on civil and military training modules and with the University of Sydney on
developing a pilot course.
The centre's organisational structure provides for approximately 20
personnel, including staff from the Department of Defence (five civilian staff,
a military affairs adviser and four ADF reservists), while DFAT, AusAID, the
AFP and the Attorney-General's Department each provide two secondees.
On 30 September 2009, the Minister for Defence, Senator John Faulkner,
announced that Dr Jim Rolfe, currently a principal adviser in New Zealand's Ministry
of Defence, will take up the position of the deputy director from November
The committee continues its discussion of the Centre of Excellence in Chapter 8
when it examines disaster relief capacity.
Building regional policing capacity
Ms Jenny Hayward-Jones and Mr Fergus Hanson, from the Lowy Institute for
International Policy, suggested that the success of RAMSI in re-establishing
law and order in Solomon Islands 'demonstrated the validity of a multi-country
approach to policing in the Pacific':
The RAMSI Participating Police Force model could be adapted
to create a standing regional police and para-military force that could be
deployed to respond to individual security challenges or provide support to
national police forces in times of need. Members of the force could be given
access to training facilities in Australia and New Zealand. While the
maintenance of a standing police/para-military force would be costly for
Australia and New Zealand, it should be seen as an investment in the future
stability of the region.
This is not the first time that the possibility of a regional police
force has been advanced. At the Pacific Islands Forum in 2003, then Prime
Minister John Howard proposed the formation of a rapid reaction standing regional
police force for the Pacific. Leaders at the 2003 meeting agreed in principle
to support the Pacific Regional Policing Initiative (PRPI). Given the history
of breakdowns in law and order within Pacific island states, it was agreed that
there was good reason for establishing a readily deployable region police force
and that a 'pooling of scarce regional resources [would] strengthen national
In February 2004, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer announced the
implementation of the PRPI, over five years, with funding of $17 million which
included a contribution of NZ$2.5 million from the New Zealand Government.
The initiative was supported by the Pacific Plan.
The PRPI extended to all Forum island countries and had six core components:
strategic policing, executive development, technical skills, training capacity,
forensic technical skills, and program management.
It would appear that the original intention of the PRPI to form a rapid
reaction standing regional police force was replaced by an initiative focusing
on training and building national capacity. This is reinforced by statements in
the AusAID Regional Aid Strategy 2004–2009:
In an effort to build the capacity of national police forces
on a regional basis, Australia and New Zealand are undertaking a Pacific Regional
Policing Initiative (PRPI)...The PRPI will focus on improving basic policing and
technical skills such as forensics. An important component of the PRPI will be
the development of an ethos of police professionalism through a regional Executive
Development Program...the new Pacific Regional Policing Initiative is providing a
comprehensive 'critical mass' approach to police training across the region and
a flexible mechanism to provide targeted support to national police agencies.
The PRPI ceased with effect on 31 December 2008. In January 2009, the
PRPI was replaced by the PPDP and continues to place an emphasis on building
policing capacity in the region (see paragraph 3.20).
While there are obvious benefits in police officers from the region
engaging in joint training, education and development, the committee
understands that one of the major obstacles to establishing a standing police
force is the capacity of Pacific Island countries to contribute. In Volume I,
the committee found that ill-equipped, poorly resourced and under-trained
bureaucracies throughout the region struggle to deliver essential services.
When it comes to policing and the justice system, the committee identified the
same capacity constraints.
Thus, the committee fully supports the numerous Australian programs
designed to tackle these fundamental weaknesses. It also endorses the approach
taken by the AFP in engaging Pacific islander police in their training
programs. The committee believes that the work being undertaken by the AFP lays
the foundations for future cooperative relationships: that in a very practical
way the AFP is helping to build a network among police throughout region and
preparing them to work together should the need arise for a regional police force.
The Australian-led RAMSI mission to Solomon Island, which had a solid
legal foundation, demonstrates the value in joint action by regional police. It
was mandated by the Pacific Islands Forum and the Biketawa Declaration; it had,
and continues to have, a regional character, and was formed in a response to a
request from the Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza. It was also
supported by complementary legal instruments, notably the International
Assistance Act 2003, legislation which authorises the presence of external
personnel and is reapplied annually. The deployment was and continues to be
recognised by the United Nations.
The committee has previously acknowledged the benefits of police
officers from the region engaging in joint training, education and
Further, in the previous chapter, the committee acknowledged the excellent work
done by the AFP in this regard and noted how the IDG has been used to provide
joint education, training and support to police officers from the Pacific prior
to development to RAMSI.
Here, the committee reiterates just how important this initiative has
been. It has improved interoperability between forces, built the capacity of
officers from the Pacific, and made significant contributions to
relationship-building between policing organisations of the region. The
committee is mindful that this interoperability, along with the goodwill, trust
and mutual understanding that has been created, be harnessed and developed into
The committee recommends that the joint training, education and
pre-development exercises that are currently used to prepare officers for RAMSI
become permanently incorporated into the AFP's Pacific Police Development
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