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Speech to The House On Solomons Deployment

Speech to The House On Solomons Deployment

Tuesday 7th Nov 2000 Richard Prebble Speech -- Foreign Affairs & Defence

I rise to respond to the statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade regarding the deployment of peace monitors to the Solomon Islands.

Sending New Zealand personnel overseas is always a serious matter and it is an appropriate matter for the House to debate. I am pleased that the Minister has made a ministerial statement. Accordingly, I withdrew my application for an urgent debate, and I would like to make a few points now.

Firstly, the ACT party does support the actions the Government is taking. It most certainly supports the personnel who are going and their families, and believes that they certainly have the support of the whole New Zealand Parliament as well. However, I do want to make some comments to the House about the issue.

During the parliamentary adjournment I went to the Solomon Islands for a week. Firstly, I can tell the House that the Minister's description of the situation is correct. The situation is dramatically better than it was when I was there in February when, basically, Honiara was a city under siege. One could go to the edge of that city and see the bunkers and look over and see the other militia on the other side of the river.

When I was there for the week I can confirm that the bunkers were empty. I can also confirm that the militia who had been wandering around the streets were teenagers holding machine guns. I did not observe those guns. However, locals pointed out trucks with bags on the back going past and said that the guns were in those bags. So the guns have not yet been handed in, although members of Parliament whom I spoke to said that the guns had started to be handed in.

I want the House to understand a couple of things. Firstly, the underlying causes are still there I will not go through them because I do not have long enough to discuss them so they can still have a flashpoint. There have been previous attempts at peacekeeping. The other point I want to make is about the law and order situation.

The economy collapsed to such a degree that the Government up there had to empty the jail. Jails are for criminals, in the Solomons as well as anywhere else. Those criminals are out, and they have access to the guns. So there has been a major law and order problem. Even while they were celebrating the peacekeeping, the criminals were off looting people's houses. The police force up in the Solomons has become hopelessly compromised. Some of them not all actually joined in with one of the militia. They emptied their own armouries, so there are 1,500 modern guns out.

There is a number of guns left over from the Second World War. I have seen some of them, and no doubt they are still very deadly. While I believe that the militia will hand back guns or many of them will when have criminals ever handed back guns anywhere. It will be most extraordinary if they did.

That is another debate. That is why I support our police going there. But when the criminals are arrested that is when, I think, the tension will rise. Unless that law and order situation is solved then the problems in the Solomons will not be.

I say that having spoken to the locals. They all said “yes'', that the overwhelming majority of people want peace. But even more they want to be safe in their homes, and they want to be able to have the criminals arrested. I understand that the Australians are taking the lead on that, and they have given support in reinforcing the Papua New Guinea police force and helping it reorganise in Vanuatu. I think the situation in the Solomons is worse.

So I say to the House and we need to note this every time we do it these situations are easy to enter into, and they are hard to get out of. I suspect this may turn out to be quite a long, hard haul. It might to turn out to be quite expensive. Having said all that, I cannot see any other alternative but the actions that the Government is taking.

ENDS

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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