MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Dec. 12) - A senior member of the Regional Assistance Mission in Solomon Islands (RAMSI) has reassured locals that the mission is capable of protecting the country's borders.

The commander of the military component of the mission, Lieutenant Colonel Quentin Flowers, made the comment after concerns were raised by villagers living along the Solomons border with the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville.

He says the Australian naval patrol boat, HMAS Gladstone, which has been deployed to the Bougainville Strait, is a capable vessel with trained personnel.

However, Colonel Flowers says any movement of weapons must be reported to police so the military can respond accordingly.

The acting commissioner of police in Solomon Islands, Ben McDevitt, says police are aware of weapons still being moved across the border to Solomon Islands from Bougainville.

Two Solomon Islands provinces, Choiseul and Western Province, were safe havens for fleeing Bougainvilleans at the height of the secessionist conflict on the island.

The Solomon Islands regional intervention force is to help strengthen the judiciary and prison systems in the provinces.

Meanwhile, the coordinator of the development component of the mission, Allan Moody, says considerable work is needed to revitalize the judiciary and prison services in the provinces.

However, he says a study is needed into the issue in all provinces before assistance can be targeted.

Most of the nine provinces in Solomon Islands have been severely affected by the central government's inability to pay provincial grants to service sectors like the judiciary and prisons.

December 16, 2003

Radio Australia:


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