Concerns over illegal weapons in the Pacific

Geraldine Coutts, Brian Abbott
Fri Sep 7, 2012
Photo: This banner displayed during a peace rally in Honiara on 22 August 2003 reflects the mood of a nation given a fresh start through its embrace of RAMSI and the declaration of a guns-free Solomon Islands. (Australian Federal Police: Brian Hartigan)
There's growing concern across the Pacific over an increased use of guns in crime.

A Pacific Transnational Crime report has in the past identified Tonga and American Samoa as the main centres for the movement of weapons into the greater Pacific region.

But in Papua New Guinea new data reveals more than 60 percent of major crimes now involve guns.

In May, most recently there was a police raid on a village in Samoa with three officers wounded and one person killed.

More widely across Melanesia there have not been any major gun crimes since the end of political crises in Solomons and Bouganville.

Dr Gordon Nanau, a lecturer in politics and international affairs at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat that people must work with police to reduce the number of guns in their communities.

"In the past few months there was that incident where police raided a few villages in Samoa, and that resulted in three casualties," he said. "In Tonga in 2010 police recovered around thirty semi-automatic assault rifles in Tongatapu - that's an indication that there are illegal guns in communities."

He added that there were reports of a small number of illegal arms in Solomon Islands, where three weapons amnesties (the latest in 2003) have been overseen by local authorities and the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). "Even in rural Solomon Islands people talk about groups that still hold on to guns even after the amnesty period."


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