My frame of reference for RAMSI always goes back to June 2003 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney, Australia when I listened carefully to Minister Lawrey Chan described how bad things had become in Solomon Islands and especially how difficult it had been for government to rule because militants and criminals had basically taken over the treasury and compromised its ability to enforce the rule of law. At that time, I was International Legal Adviser to the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and we were involved with the organisation of that meeting which was convened under the auspices of the Biketawa Declaration. It was the first time that a regional intervention under the Biketawa Declaration was invoked. It is indeed ironic when one comes to think about it now that Forum Leaders would name their framework for dealing with conflicts in the Pacific Islands region after one of the most peaceful places on earth!
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“MY brother wanted to escape down to the river but they chased him down and got him. They partly cut his head and dragged him back to where he was. They took him close to where we were and they cut another part of his head. I could tell the person who did it; he was a boy… My brother cried and called for mum.
He recognised our mum and called her but we could not do anything. We were advised not to cry for them. If we did they would kill us.” This was a story of a young woman from Marasa Village on Guadalcanal before the Solomon Islands Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings and can be found on page 136 of its final February 2012 report. It captures in one succinct paragraph the terror and tragedy that consumed this Pacific island nation nearly 20 years ago.
That such terrifying accounts of neighbour killing neighbour, wantok shooting wantok, coastal villages destroyed from constant bombardment by armed patrol boats, entire villages razed to the ground by marauding militants are no longer heard or occurring in Solomon Islands testify to the success and achievements of RAMSI....
RAMSI came at the invitation of the Solomon Islands Government under laws passed unanimously by the Solomon Islands National Parliament. The mission has over the past decade had its fair share of challenges and critics. But in partnership with the government and people of Solomon Islands, it has also achieved much of which we can all be very proud. These successes can be attributed to several factors but high on the list is the realisation by the people, communities and all levels of leadership that their beloved Hapi Isles needed help. According to the People’s Survey, support for RAMSI never fell below 85 percent of Solomon Islands’ population. The regional nature of RAMSI, with its endorsement by the Pacific Islands Forum under the Biketawa Declaration of 2000, was also a big part of the mission’s long lasting success. With people from every Pacific Islands Forum country included in the RAMSI military, police and civilian programmes, the barriers that could be caused by different people and cultures were minimised. The willingness by the people of Solomon Islands to accept people from other Pacific islands countries into their communities made a great difference to the success of RAMSI. Solomon Islands is now a different place from the nation that RAMSI found on arrival in the early hours of 24 July 2003. Law and order has been re-established in the communities. The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) has been rebuilt and is gradually regaining the confidence, trust and respect it once had from the community. Solomon Islands now has functioning government systems and the economy continues to grow every year.
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The Solomon Islands is now leading the region in mainstreaming gender as an issue that needs to be addressed urgently within the public sector as JOHNSON HONIMAE reports
I n a game-changing decision, the Solomon Islands Public Service Commission recently nominated gender as one of the key cross cutting issues to be used to assess the performance of all heads of government departments. Chair of the Solomon Islands Public Service Commission, Eliam Tangirogo who is leading the reform from within, says it is the first time that gender mainstreaming has been included as one of the principal accountabilities in the Permanent Secretary Performance Agreements. “This is a very positive step,” he says. “The Gender Equality and Women’s Development Policy is an approved government national policy and so it’s only logical and in the national interest that we consider this as an opportunity to further the progress of our women. “We now have data on women in the country, but we need to have a plan of action so that we can see where we’re going and where we can improve. He says by including gender mainstreaming in the performance agreements, the commission is making sure that something gets done about implementing the commitments of the government—both nationally and internationally. “We can’t just depend on the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs to do the work. We must all take leadership and responsibility for it,” said Tangirogo. “I have attended several public service conferences in the region and other public services regularly report on their achievements in gender mainstreaming and are very proud of their achievements. But now Solomon Islands Public Service should also be able to report on progress and achievement in advancing gender issues in its public sector.”
The Papua New Guinea Defence Force has completed a 10-year stint under the military component of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands. JOHNSON HONIMAE reports on the farewell of the PNGDF.
After deploying 600 personnel since mid- 2003 to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, the final PNG Defence Force contingent was farewelled at a ceremonial parade at the RAMSI Headquarters in Honiara on 1 April. “After 10 years of continuous deployment, I would like to say a special thank you to all the troops from Papua New Guinea who have served with RAMSI over the past decade. “Your input has been vital to the success of the mission and a testament to regional cooperation and fellowship,” said Wayne Higgins, RAMSI’s Acting Special Coordinator, during the farewell parade. Speaking on behalf of the PNG Defence Forces, Joint Force Commander, Colonel Gilbert Toropo who travelled from Port Moresby for the ceremony, said apart from its domestic duties, PNGDF “has maintained RAMSI as a priority deployment among its international and regional obligations. We have always strived to provide our best possible officers and servicemen and women for RAMSI duties.”
Colonel Toropo said: “PNG believes RAMSI has achieved its mandate and PNG is happy to be part of the troop contributing nations to assist in restoring normalcy to Honiara and the rest of Solomon Islands.”