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Report Criticises NZ High Commission Security

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HONIARA (Pacnews): Serious lapses in security for New Zealand High Commission staff working in the Solomon Islands have been uncovered in a Ministry of Foreign Affairs report, reports Pacnews.

The report, released under the Official Information Act, was undertaken after the death of New Zealand diplomat Bridget Nichols.

Deputy High Commissioner Nichols, 50, died from a knife wound inside the New Zealand High Commission's residential compound in the Solomons capital Honiara on March 17.

Citing the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corp[oration (SIBC), Pacnews reported that it was assumed her death was a result of the country's deteriorating security situation, but an AFP report yesterday quoted Police Commissioner Morton Sireheti as saying Nichols probably stabbed herself accidentally.

Nevertheless, the New Zealand Herald newspaper said the report found three major areas of concern that needed "serious attention".

Pacnews reported that the report said the response capability to problems was inadequate; the ability of staff to be able to communicate with one another at all times and between all locations was inadequate; and medical help in an emergency was also not adequate.

However, the report found no evidence to suggest there was a "structured threat" to New Zealanders in the strife-torn country.

The report added that the situation is one of general breakdown in law and order, erosion of policing standards and credibility and a tendency for criminals to opt for their perception of soft targets.

It said while that environment was "unpredictable", it was probably safer than Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.

Pacnews reported the censored report said that while the commission's office security was "good", some small changes were suggested.

Security around the residential compounds required significant improvements, some of which had already been undertaken.

The report also highlighted poor medical cover in the area, notably that offered in the local hospital and that it was not capable of meeting more than simple emergencies and its equipment was inadequate.

It added that local general practitioners existed but there were difficulties in reaching them on the day of Nichols' death.


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