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NZ, Australia to make scoping mission to Solomons

NZ, Australia to make scoping mission to Solomons

New Zealand officials are to join with Australia in a scoping mission to examine the law and order crisis in the Solomon Islands, Foreign Minister Phil Goff said today.

The New Zealand team will involve officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, NZAID, Defence and the Police. The mission is expected to leave on Tuesday and spend four days in the Solomons.

"New Zealand is extremely concerned about the deteriorating situation in the Solomons," Mr Goff said.

"The rule of law is not upheld by senior police officers and the government is unable to operate without intimidation and extortion by armed former militants and other criminal elements.

"New Zealand has provided 10 police to work as mentors with the Solomon Islands police force over the past three years, which has improved day to day policing on the streets of the capital Honiara. However there is still a need for significant reform in the senior ranks of the police. Without this, the overall law and order situation will not improve.

"I have held discussions with my Australian counterpart Alexander Downer about the situation and New Zealand will work with Australia and other Pacific Island countries to provide whatever assistance we can to help restore both the rule of law and the Solomon Islands' economy.

"The nature of that assistance will need to be discussed after the scoping team has had a chance to report back, but further assistance could involve providing more support for the Police Commissioner.

"The mission will consider all options for assistance, including armed policing and military backup. No decisions on this have been made, nor has either suggestion at this point been referred to Cabinet for approval.

"Such assistance would be unprecedented. However even consideration of these options is a clear indication of the seriousness of the situation faced by Prime Minister Kemakeza and his government, and of Australia and New Zealand's concern to provide effective assistance," Mr Goff said.

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