Goff Welcomes First Weapons Surrender In Solomons
Goff Welcomes First Weapons Surrender In Solomon Islands
Foreign Minister Phil Goff today welcomed the first surrender of around 40 weapons from a former militant group, the Isatabu Freedom Movement, to the International Peace Monitoring Team (IPMT) in the Solomon Islands as a promising start.
"Today's hand over ceremony in the Eastern Guadalcanal district was an important event for the ex-combatants, their families, the local communities, and the Guadalcanal Provincial Government," Mr Goff said. "It represents a formal closure for one group of Solomon Islanders to the violence which has had such a devastating impact on the country and its people.
"Although the deadline initially set by the Townsville Peace Agreement for the surrender has been extended by one month, it is good to see the Isatabu militants in the east of Guadalcanal Island are ahead of schedule in handing over their weapons to the IPMT.
"The weapons, handed over by 50 ex-IFM combatants, have been checked against an inventory by IPMT members, labelled and placed in the container. The container was locked under the IPMT’s supervision.
"The monitors will not guard the weapons. The process relies on good faith and commitment, which the peace monitors will encourage by helping build confidence.
"It is a welcome occasion for all Solomon Islanders committed to the peace process, and it is pleasing that members of the New Zealand Police, Defence Force and Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been able to play such an important role.
"Further weapons surrender ceremonies are planned in the coming weeks, involving both ex-militant groups (Isatabu Freedom Movement and Malaita Eagle Force
"Tensions, however, remain in the Solomon Islands and the situation remains fragile. It will take a great effort from all sides to maintain the momentum of the peace process. New Zealand will continue to do all we can to support the people of the Solomon Islands with the challenges which lie ahead."
There are 14 New Zealanders now in the Solomon Islands. The Deputy Leader of the IPMT is MFAT official Mr Chris Seed. Other New Zealanders are Police and Defence personnel, working as peace monitors in team sites (a NZ Police officer is leader of one of the Honiara teams), coordinating IPMT operations, and providing communications and other support to team sites. The total IPMT size is currently 39, and will be 49 when second Australian deployment arrives next week. There are currently 5 container sites, 3 on Guadalcanal and 2 on Malaita. Teams are at present located in Honiara and Auki on Malaita. When the full Team arrives there will be additional team sites to the east and west of Honiara.