PM Clark Farewells Solomon Islands Contingent
Rt Hon Helen Clark
Address at Ceremony to Farewell
Solomon Islands Contingent
Townsville RAAF Airbase
Thursday 24 July 2003
It is a pleasure to be here today to farewell police and military from our region of the Pacific who are being deployed to the Solomon Islands.
Your mission is an important one. At the request of the Solomon Islands Government, you will be helping to re-establish law and order so that the Solomon Islands can rebuild its government infrastructure and economy and improve the living standards of its people. Put simply, adequate law and order is a pre-requisite for successful development.
Three years ago, the Pacific Island Forum meeting in Kiribati adopted the Biketawa Declaration. It envisaged a situation, like that which exists in the Solomon Islands, where member countries might need help. It is in that spirit that New Zealand and other Pacific countries have joined with Australia to support the Solomon Islands.
This is a Pacific solution to a Pacific problem. Thus it is important that our involvement is handled in a Pacific way. We must be sympathetic to the interests and needs of the Solomon Islands people. Our approach must be low key and helpful, and enable the Solomon Islands to build the capability to progress their own development.
First and foremost, this is a police-led operation. Our military will go to support the police, and will be able to give civil and humanitarian assistance. Your work will lay the basis for development aid to be effective in future in improving the Solomon Islands’ economy, public services and living standards.
Any police and military deployment overseas carries risks. Our expectation is that you will engage with the people of the Solomon Islands in a way which builds their confidence in you and in the assistance we are giving.
As in Bougainville recently, a measure of the success of this mission will be that the people will be sorry to see you leave.
Deployment offshore means leaving families and friends behind. Today we acknowledge the personal cost of that to each of you, and thank you for helping in this mission to give the people of the Solomon Islands a fresh start.
I wish you all a successful mission and a safe return home.