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Goff On Solomon Island Ethnic Violence

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Media Statement

13 April 2000



The Australian and New Zealand Foreign Ministers today welcomed the news that all parties involved in the ethnic unrest in Solomon Islands had agreed in principle to meet together to try and resolve the crisis through dialogue.

Australia and New Zealand are working with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Solomon Islands Government to encourage communication between the people of Malaita and Guadalcanal. Many factors underpin ethnic tension between these groups including issues of resource allocation, land ownership, employment opportunity and administrative capacity.

Maj Gen Sitiveni Rabuka, the Special Envoy of the Commonwealth Secretary-General, is currently working with the Solomon Islands Government to bring the parties together for talks likely to take place in the Solomon Islands after Easter. Ministers Downer and Goff commended the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Solomon Islands Government for their efforts. They were pleased to support planning for talks among community leaders.

Ministers recognise the tragic nature of violence which has forced thousands of Solomon Islanders from their homes in the past year. The Ministers have agreed to do all they can to assist the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Solomon Islands Government to promote reconciliation and a peaceful resolution of the many difficult issues underpinning the conflict.

Australia and New Zealand have provided significant assistance both to the Solomon Islands and to the Commonwealth Secretariat over the past year. This has included humanitarian assistance for displaced people and programmes to strengthen the Solomon Islands Police. Both countries have supported the Commonwealth’s very useful work including the activities of Maj Gen Rabuka, and the continuing presence on Guadalcanal of the Multinational Police Assistance Group. The problems in Solomon Islands have had a long gestation and cannot be solved quickly or simply. While the task will be formidable, Ministers were confident that both countries would continue to work in support of measures to overcome these deeply entrenched problems. It was important, however, that the efforts of external parties did not in any way overshadow the importance of efforts being made by the Solomon Islands Government and people to deal with their own problems. The Ministers appreciate that the problems on Guadalcanal have deep roots and effective “home grown” solutions must be developed, though they will take time to devise and implement.

Contact David Shearer (04) 471.9734 025 477 982

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