Dec 18, 2017 Last Updated 3:10 AM, Dec 12, 2017

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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RAMSI is our choice

“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....

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Friends no more

Tonga heads to the polls

AS a student at the University of the South Pacific, Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva decided to put an end to what he saw as the corrupt system of governance in his homeland – Tonga. The monarchy and King Tupou IV were at the root of all that was bad about the system which civil servants, members of the nobility and foreigners rorted for personal benefit.

Upon his return to the kingdom, Pohiva launched a series of sustained attacks on the monarchy and corrupt governance systems using national radio as his platform. In 2010, Fiji-educated Dr Feleti Sevele – later Lord Sevele of Vailahi – was appointed the first commoner prime minister of the kingdom by the late King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV. That appointment was largely caused by Pohiva’s agitation for change and the growing strength and anger of the pro-independence movement.

After the election of 2014, Pohiva became minister in 2014 – the first elected commoner to hold the position in 135 years. Today the freedom fighter-turned prime minister is a caretaker, effectively removed from office by a monarch who has found his head of government to be tiresome, bungling and increasingly unpopular. Two years ago it would have been impossible for the king to dismiss Parliament and the prime minister. 

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Fiji rugby feels the heat

Pressure mounts on Fij i Rugby Union to investigate Ben Ryan’s sevens franchise

BEN Ryan has been labelled a “master coach”. But he is also the mastermind behind the idea to franchise the Fiji 7s team to address the financial welfare of the players, keep the fans happy, and make money for the Fiji Rugby Union. Since last August’s inaugural Olympic gold medal feat for rugby sevens, the FRU has not attempted to leverage its key resource, the Fiji 7s brand. It refuses to comment on the issue, except for a slur in Parliament by the Sports Minister linking the idea to the way McDonald’s and Starbucks run their business, purely for commercial profiteering.

But Ryan’s idea of franchising the Fiji 7s team is based on the Green Bay Packers model. “When I talk franchise, I talk Green Bay Packers. That type of franchise that could work,” Ryan told the ABC Pacific Beat. The Green Bay Packers is a professional American football team that sells shares to its fans to raise money.

It is a public, non-profit organization whose shares do not gain value. They don’t pay dividends and ownership can only be transferred to immediate family members. There’s a $200,000 cap limit on individual shares to prevent any one person becoming the majority owner. In 2011, the Packers needed money to upgrade their stadium so they sold 185,000 new shares at $250 each to raise the $46.25 million they needed.

Profits are re-invested back into the franchise, while 60 per cent of gains from share concession sales are given to local charities. The team has won 13 World Series and 4 Super Bowls. Ryan is adamant the Packers model would suit the Fiji 7s.

Fiji has the fan-base support from individuals and corporate groups both locally and abroad to raise money the FRU don’t seem to have to maintain the Olympic and World Series winning teams. Player’s contracts continue to plague the team while facilities and other crucial resources are scarcely available.

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Spotlight on Honiara

Region watches as assistance mission comes to an end

AT the end of June, the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands will come to an end. What started off as a military operation to quell violence and return the country to democracy after the ethnic tensions of 2000 will be no more and normality will return. Or will it?

When politically-fuelled ethnic tensions were literally fanned into flame in 2000, the Happy Isles as the Solomons are commonly known eruoted into violence and bloodshed. The Chinese community – mostly traders – bore the brunt of ferocious attacks and were evacuated by chartered flights to safety after much of China Town was torched or looted by angry mobs. Troops from New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga made up the core of the military stabilisation force which responded to the plea for help to calm tensions and bring about a return to democracy.

This was the second regional stabilisation mission since the South Pacific Peacekeeping Forces was deployed to Bougainville after a truce singned in 1997 ended the civil war on the island. Pacific nations also supported a New Zealand and Australian-led monitoring mission with military capabilities in East Timor (now Timor Leste) in 1999-2000. The concept of regional assistance was relied upon when the Solomon Islands sough help.

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