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Burton pledges ongoing assistance to Solomon Is

Tue, 27 July 2004

Burton pledges ongoing assistance to Solomon Islands

New Zealand is committed long term to supporting the development of a safe and prosperous Solomon Islands.

New Zealand is committed long term to supporting the development of a safe and prosperous Solomon Islands. Defence Minister Mark Burton travels to Solomon Islands today, where he will join government representatives from participating nations in celebrating the first year of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). Mark Burton says that RAMSI's first twelve months have been an undoubted success.

"In true Pacific style, New Zealand Police and Defence personnel are working with their counterparts from the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Australia in helping the Solomon Islands' people restore law and order throughout their country.

"Police have done an outstanding job, arresting over 700 suspected criminals and recovering more than 3,700 weapons. People are now free to go about their normal business, free from intimidation and fear-a situation that would have been all but unimaginable only 12 short months ago.

"But, while RAMSI has made extraordinary progress, the job is not yet done.

"New Zealand military personnel will participate in the maintenance of a platoon in Solomon Islands on a rotational basis for a further two years. 35 New Zealand police officers will continue to work long-term to help rebuild the Royal Solomon Islands' Police. New Zealand has also increased development assistance to Solomon Islands by $6 million this year to $14 million.

"RAMSI is a police-led operation. As law and order returns, and the threat to the police declines, participating Pacific nations have gradually drawn down the military presence in Solomon Islands. From a peak of 1,700 12 months ago, military numbers were reduced to 650 in October, and will shortly fall to a platoon.

"While we are confident that this is an appropriate level of support, we will continue to monitor the situation. New Zealand would certainly consider any request from the Solomon Islands' Government for additional military support, should circumstances change.

"Solomon Islands is our largest aid partner, and our aim is to continue long-term projects which will make a difference for the future. Attention is now on the long haul task of restoring infrastructure and key services, including the health system, banking and financial institutions, and schools.

"All those involved in RAMSI deserve thanks for a job well done. Equally, I thank the people of Solomon Islands for their hospitality and support. I am confident that the next 12 months can bring even more success."

ENDS

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