VISITING ACP-EU OFFICIALS SIZE UP SOLOMONS

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By Robert L. Iroga

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Feb. 16) - The Africa Caribbean Pacific-European Union team arrived yesterday in Honiara, Solomon Islands, for a three-day meeting with various stakeholders, which include government and non-government organizations.

The visiting ACP -EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly hopes to review the programs now underway in the Solomon Isalnds and make suggestions for improvement and for further assistance from the European Union.

President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly and Jamaican Sharon Hay Webster told the Solomon Star that they would be looking at political issues, development assistance and socio-economic considerations.

She said the assistance would be coming through EU whilst the Joint-Parliament would guide EU in respect of their findings.

Wester said, "We will look at what’s on the ground now. We have to take our own report to our Bureau and Parliamentary Assembly and they will take consideration and appropriate actions after."

Vice President of the ACP-EU Parliamentary Association Michael Gahler, who is also a Member of the European Parliament, said political stability is of interest to all parties involved.

"The EU and ACP countries we want to encourage the decision makers in Solomon Islands to continue with rehabilitation," Gahler said.

Gahler said they hoped to hear concrete update from the Prime Minister and his plans for reconciliation.

And he said they also hoped to get concrete plans from the Prime Minister about the proposed national reconciliation.

"For the sake of national reconciliation I think all responsible parties to bring their share of responsibility and action," Gahler said.

Speaking in regards to RAMSI, both Gahler and Webster were very impressed with the achievements by the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands and wanted that to be advanced.

Gahler said Australia has done a great work in the region and they would like to thank them for doing that.

He said what RAMSI has shown is that regional approach is better than "bringing in big sticks from outside".

"It shows we can solve issues regionally among those who are primarily concerned and not let it drift, or the other side come with the big stick from outside -- so regional approach is better," he said.

Ms Webster said RAMSI has been up for discussions by appropriate committees as well as in the preliminary discussions by the committee.

She said conflict resolution has been high on their agenda because there are so many issues, which they wanted to address.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza told the mission yesterday afternoon that he’s looking forward to receiving their impartial assessment of the local situation.

When meeting the mission, Sir Allan identified lack of capacity as one reason RAMSI had been providing advisers and officers in key strategic positions within the government.

"Prior to the ethnic conflict, training and education had been geared towards maintaining a centralized government system.

"The result is inadequate and qualified manpower to sustain the proposed Federal Government system," Sir Allan said.

He also told the mission of the mismatch between planning and grassroots needs in the country’s post conflict era.

"This mismatch between post conflict planning for economic recovery, reform and development with the needs and initiatives of the grassroots people must be re-aligned," the prime minister said.

He added, "I hope the problems we are facing in this post conflict situation would qualify us for Post Conflict Restoration Schemes by the EU-ACP Bureau."

The nine-member team arrived following a request from Sir Allan to assess the situation after the recent conflict.

February 17, 2005

Solomon Star: http://www.solomonstarnews.com/

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