Operation Helpem Fren
The deployment of police forces from Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island nations to assist the Government of Solomon Islands in July 2003 through the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) is known as Operation Helpem Fren (the term in Solomon Islands’ Pidgin means ‘Helping Friend’).
The deployment of Australian Defence Force (ADF) troops under RAMSI is codenamed Operation Anode.
‘Operation Helpem Fren’, AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty, Speech, 2003 Institute of Public Administration Australia National Conference, Brisbane, 28 November 2003
” ‘Operation Helpem Fren’, or the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands, came about as a result of a request for assistance from the Solomon Islands Government. The comprehensive package provided by Australia and other South Pacific nations is designed to restore law and order, rebuild government and economic institutions and provide an environment where the Solomon Islands people can feel secure and commerce can flourish.
“The largest and most visible element of this package is the Participating Police Force. This includes 200 security and police personnel from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Kiribati, PNG, Tonga, Cook Islands and Samoa. The Participating Police Force is working with the Royal Solomon Islands Police to investigate serious crime, remove illegal weapons from the community, and dismantle militant groups and organised crime syndicates. Visiting police are also providing training and are assisting to reform the Solomon Islands Police, with the introduction of recognised professional standards.
“The deployment has met with overwhelming support from the Solomon Islands community and has made significant operational gains. More than 400 arrests have been made, including powerful militant leaders and corrupt police officers. Over 3700 weapons have been collected, 670 of which were military-style weapons. Some 16 police posts have been established throughout Solomon Island provinces. Honiara and other regional centres have also reported a dramatic improvement in law and order. We expect to have a significant presence in the Solomons over the next five years, with our role changing from front line policing to one of training and capacity building.”
Commentary and Analysis
Operation Helpem Fren – a personal perspective, Ben McDevitt, Australian Army Journal, Vol.3 No.2, Winter 2006, p63
Former PPF Commander Ben McDevitt outlines his perspectives on the challenges of the operation in the Australian Army Journal
Policebuilding: The International Deployment Group in the Solomon Islands, Gordon Peake and Kaysie Studdard Brown, International Peacekeeping, Vol.12, No.4, Winter 2005, pp.521
“Significantly, Operation Helpem Fren [pidgin for 'Help a Friend'] was a ‘police-first’ mission – police taking the lead role and soldiers providing mission support. The decision to emphasize policing and law and order was also consistent with a normative shift in Australia’s policy towards its island neighbours. Observers pointed to the lack of rule of law as the trigger of violent conflict.”