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Military reduction a sign of success in Solomons

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Media Statement

28 October 2003

Military reduction a sign of success in Solomons

The decision to reduce the military component of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (Ramsi) shows how successful the overall mission has been to date, Foreign Minister Phil Goff said today.

"Solomon Islands went to the brink of social and economic collapse but the combined efforts of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands Forum countries have brought it back from the edge," Mr Goff said.

"The police-led operation, supported by military components from several countries, has largely restored law and order and established a new sense of security which is providing a positive environment for the restoration of government services and the Solomon Islands economy.

"In less that 100 days the Ramsi has overseen the surrender of more than 3700 weapons, making the community a safer place for all.

"Some 200 people have been arrested on a wide range of charges, including the notorious Harold Keke, who had been terrorising the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal, Jimmy Rasta and a number of other high-profile criminals from both Guadalcanal and Malaita islands.

"An important element of the regional mission is the reform of the Solomon Islands police force and investigations into its activities, especially relating to the overthrow of the government in June 2000.

"As a result, more than 20 police officers have been arrested and charged with a range of offences from intimidation and extortion to unlawful possession of firearms and discharging firearms in public.

"The investigations are ongoing and more arrests can be expected. At the end of the day this will result in a more professional police force."

Mr Goff said that while the restoration of law and order had been an essential element of the regional mission, the most important work had been stabilising the economy and restoring the institutions of government.

"Government expenditure has been controlled, so-called compensation payments have ceased, and revenue is being increased as Australian advisers work with Solomon Islands counterparts to bring order to the government's books.

"This will ensure that the teachers and the doctors can be paid and that basic services can again be delivered to the people of Solomon Islands.

"This work, along with the restoration of security, is an essential part of encouraging the international donor community to re-engage. Solomon Islands needs the support of major donors like the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and the European Union if it is to be able to fully re-build its economy."

Mr Goff said the scaling back of the Ramsi's military component was testimony to the highly effective contribution of New Zealand Defence Force personnel and Police officers in the Solomons.

"There is still much to be done to restore the economy and create a climate that will encourage investors to return, but that work is off to a very good start.

"The work of the regional police will continue, supported by a reduced level of military back-up, as the regional mission works to ensure that the gains that have been made can be sustained and a better future is brought about for Solomon Islanders," Mr Goff said.


All Phil Goff’s media releases and speeches are posted at www.beehive.govt.nz

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