Solomon Islands Update
- Monday 24 April 2006

Thanks to UNity 457 cm2

[2] Troops, police sent to Solomons

The Government has authorised the immediate deployment of a further 110 soldiers to the Solomon Islands to provide additional support to RAMSI, bringing the total number of ADF troops deployed to 220. These troops will assist in stabilising the situation in the Solomon Islands following riots and injuries prompted by political unrest. It is alleged part of the motivation of the rioting was to destabilise the new Prime Minister, Snyder Rini.

The strengthened military presence will reinforce the military component of RAMSI consisting of personnel from Australia, New Zealand, Tonga and Papua New Guinea as part of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, intends to visit the Solomon Islands on April 22 at the end of his current visit to Vanuatu, Samoa and Tonga.

He told an interviewer, “I’ll see how the situation unfolds, but, my current plan would be to go there around Saturday [April 22] on my way back. His Pacific region visit is to review the progress in improving governance and reinforcing economic reform, security and development.

Commenting on the situation, the Prime Minister, John Howard, said on April 19, “What has happened is a reminder of the instability of the region in which we live. It’s a reminder that we live in a part of the world that carries with it the constant threat of failed states, and as a stable united prosperous nation in the region we know it is in our interest as well as the interest of the region that we prevent states from failing because failed states become the breeding grounds for all sorts of ideologies and attitudes and developments which can pose a threat to the stability of the whole region.”

In what has been seen as a reference to Taiwan, Mr Howard, went on, “We should remember that there are countries other than countries that are geographically part of the region which have an interest in involving themselves and gathering allies and partners in the region, not necessarily with the longer term interest of the region at heart.”

In a statement, the Federal Opposition says it “stands shoulder to shoulder with the soldiers from Townsville's 1RAR and the Federal Police officers who will be deployed to the Solomons. The Government has made the right decision.

“The challenge of security for our Pacific neighbours has direct implications for our own national security and international obligations. Deploying highly trained Australian military and police reinforcements should help to restore law and order in Honiara. …”

The executive director of Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) Paul O’Callaghan notes that “While the cause of this post-election rampage appears different from the ethnic warring that led to the intervention of the RAMSI multinational force in 2003, it also demonstrates significant fragility in the national political process. If [Solomon Island] Government and Opposition leaders are unable to resolve the crisis in the near future, some of the achievements of our member agencies over recent years will be put in jeopardy.” Mr O’Callaghan says that 20 ACFID member agencies have aid programs in Solomon Islands.

For more information:

Office of the Minister for Foreign Affairs: (02) 6277 7500
E-mail: A.Downer.MP@aph.gov.au
Website: www.dfat.gov.au
Departmental (02) 6261 1555

Prime Minister’s office (02) 6277 7700
Website: www.pm.gov.au

Leader of the Opposition (02) 6277 4022
E -mail: Kim.Beazley.MP@aph.gov.au

Australian Council for International Development Ph: (02) 6281 9227
Webstie: www.acfid.asn.au