By Gary Hatigeva
THE escape of 29 bougainvillean men from immigration custody in the early hours of Wednesday morning has sparked fear among residents in Gizo, Western Province.
This has forced police in the Headquarters here in Honiara to send reinforcements to support the operation to locate the escapees and ensure the safety of the people in that region.
Police Commissioner Mathew Varley said further police resources were sent to Gizo on Wednesday afternoon and added additional patrols and additional resources from Gizo to support the operation.
Mr Varley revealed that RSIPF now has a taskforce of around 100 police officers in Gizo, who he said are dedicated to the operation to ensure public safety and to locate the men.
He said while the main focus is on the mission to return the 29 escapees into immigration custody, it is the force’s concern as well to provide reassurance to the community of Gizo and reduce their fears through a high visibility police presence.
“We had a large scale police operation overnight to make sure that the community was safe,” Varley explained.
He then assured the people in Gizo and the surrounding communities that police will continue to conduct their high visibility patrols around the area and will continue to be present in the community in significant numbers until the situation is resolved.
Two patrol boats are currently in the western waters continuing with civilian and a RSIPF assistant commissioner is also in Gizo whom Varley says has command over the overall operations on the ground.
Meanwhile, officials from Gizo confirmed last night that at this point, the situation is calm and there have been no outbreaks of violence that police or the local authorities are aware of, and no reports of injuries, risks of safety to any person or police officers have been reported since the last 12 hours.