It is my distinct honour and privilege to address this momentous assembly, and on the occasion of bidding farewell to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) here in Honiara.
On behalf of my delegation and the former members of Vanuatu's various contingents to RAMSI present here today, I wish at the outset to thank and commend the Government and People of the Solomon Islands for the fine arrangements and hospitality that have been accorded to us since our arrival and for hosting an elaborate cultural welcome ceremony yesterday evening for all delegates. Thank you tumas, Merci.
Vanuatu has been a longtime advocate of regional cooperation. In line with the Biketawa Declaration (2000), under which Forum Leaders committed to good governance, uphold the liberty of the individual under the law and to the individual’s inalienable equal rights, and recognizing the need to assist in time of crisis or in response to members’ request, Vanuatu saw the importance of extending its support to secure and uphold the security and welfare to our wantoks in the Solomon Islands.
Our steadfast belief in the profits and success of RAMSI’s operations has never wavered since its deployment in 2003 and the reason of our congregation here today as part of the week celebrating RAMSI’s successful drawdown is clear attestation to the firm faith and robust cooperation of our beloved region.
Today we gather to celebrate and appreciate the strength and constancy of the support of our region and the Solomon Islands Government for the Mission. Our region’s former Leaders had time and time again testified of our regional participation as the backbone of RAMSI and without such a display of regional cooperation, this success story would not have been heard of. I believe that this feature of regional cooperation will continue to be the key to building upon the work of the Mission going forward.
The achievements of notable positive progress is a legacy that RAMSI has instilled in Solomon Islands. But we also must realize that continuity in maintaining the law and order must be a shared responsibility. The Government will certainly play its part. But other social structures and social institutions such as the Chiefs and Churches must also play an important part to continue maintaining law and order in the country.
My country has had its own share of problems. There were occasions in our nation’s history where we learnt that some conflicts between different tribal or community groups could be better addressed by the Chiefs or the churches other than the police. In many occasions the Chiefs have prevented the escalation of many social conflicts in our communities without or with very little assistance from the Police. And we encourage complementarity of the work of the Chiefs and the state institutions in conflict resolutions.
In the early days of our struggle for political independence we had riots and rebellions in several islands and we undertook to seek regional security assistance through our bilateral relations. With the help of the Government of Papua New Guinea and with some assistance from neighboring countries, the PNG Kumul Force was sent to Vanuatu to assist our nation in disengaging the rebellion that were happening simultaneously in a number of our islands, mostly in opposition to independence. That mission was successful in defeating the rebellions. So regional assistance through security missions has proven that it can work to restore order, or bring about positive political change and create a conducive environment for economic growth. Until today, we treasure our relationship with Papua New Guinea because they had left a legacy in our history that created an environment for unity of purpose for political independence.
By the same token today we honour our brave men and women across our region who served under RAMSI including those who have died in service or may have passed on after participating in this program. They have dedicated themselves to advance peace, restore law and order and ensure that Solomon Islands return to normalcy.
We commend the Solomon Islands Government in accepting and working with RAMSI and the Enhanced Consultative Mechanism on its role in providing oversight on the progress of RAMSI during the drawdown course of the mission. Allow me to also extend our commendation to the Forum Secretariat for tirelessly working to ensure the inclusion of RAMSI and other security matters on the regional agenda and for taking the lead in advocating regionalism.
Vanuatu is encouraged by the achievement made in the political and security spheres of the Solomon Islands and particularly for the enhanced capacity development of the Police and improvements in its national security capabilities most notably the rearmament of certain sections of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force. We commend the Solomon Islands Government in assisting RAMSI restore law and order and most importantly the community’s faith in its national Police.
It is also worth noting the improvements made under RAMSI’s pillar of the Machinery of Government which has enabled improvements in public accountability, the functioning of parliament, provincial governments, the public service and the electoral system, as well as increasing women’s participation in parliament and the public sector.
In the same token, we commend RAMSI and the Solomon Islands Government for the recovery and growth of the national economy; for stabilizing public finances and for ensuring the return of Foreign investment through a series of economic reforms that focused on improving the regulatory environment for business and improving the standards of government thus consequently improving the living standards of all peoples within Solomon Islands.
Overall, Vanuatu is well pleased to have been part of RAMSI and commends the work of the Solomon Islands Government in ensuring the success of the mission and the progress on the internal re-structuring that will continue to be undertaken.
We acknowledge the commitment of Australia and New Zealand on the favorable continued support to Solomon Islands post –RAMSI and remain aware that peace-building is an ongoing process. The region through Leaders should continue to stay engaged in assisting Solomon Islands in its transition process.
As we celebrate the drawdown of RAMSI and reminisce the achievements of RAMSI let us depart remembering that RAMSI will continue to be an important feature of our region’s security cooperation and we as a region have drawn many lessons from the mission which I believe will continue to strengthen our political and security engagement within the region.
Congratulations Solomon Islands Government;
Congratulations Forum Member Countries and Secretariat;
Congratulations RAMSI and farewell.