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Infantry company deployment to Solomons

25 August 2003 Media Statement

Infantry company deployment to Solomons

Prime Minister Helen Clark and Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff announced today that the New Zealand infantry company which has been on standby for deployment to the Solomon Islands would leave shortly for a mission of up to three months. The government placed the company on standby in July.

Helen Clark and Phil Goff said that the 125 members of the infantry company will join the 35 police officers and 105 Defence Force personnel (consisting of four helicopters and associated personnel, headquarters support staff, logistics, communications, an engineering element, and a small medical group) which have already been deployed.

“The Regional Assistance Mission in the Solomon Islands has been underway for just over a month and has made good progress in its efforts to restore the rule of law.

“We have seen the arrests of Harold Keke and two of his senior lieutenants, and the collection of approximately 2700 weapons as part of a weapons amnesty, including some 550 military style weapons and 300,000 rounds of ammunition.

“A number of high-powered weapons still remain in the community, however, and there are suspicions that some former militants and criminal elements have hidden weapons.

“The infantry company will provide back up for the police in operations to recover weapons which remain in the community. This follows the expiration last Thursday of the weapons amnesty that was in place.

“The military component of the Regional Assistance Mission has been an important part of the operation’s success. To date, no shots have been fired and the military presence has been very much in the background, but it has helped to foster local confidence in the Mission.”

Helen Clark and Phil Goff said Cabinet has approved the deployment for a maximum period of ninety days. It also approved additional funding of $3 million to cover the cost of the deployment.

The Regional Assistance Mission in the Solomon Islands has been underway for just over a month following a request for assistance to restore law and order from the Solomon Islands government.

Over 2000 police, military and civilian personnel from New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Tonga and Papua New Guinea are currently serving there. It has the support of the Pacific Island Forum, the Commonwealth, and the United Nations.


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