SOGAVARE RETURNS TO SOLOMONS WITH PNG’S SOMARE

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By Robert L. Iroga

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Oct. 29) – Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has again expressed his displeasure at Australia’s dominance of RAMSI [Regional Assistance Mission Solomon Islands], accusing them of creating a second regime in the country.

Sogavare told reporters that he wants RAMSI, but not Australia’s dominance.

"I have no problems with Australians – it’s attitudes we are talking about, especially at a time when the Solomon Islands is having a diplomatic stand-off with Australia," he said.

The prime minister [reiterated] his tough stance after delivering the same message to the forum leaders meeting in Nadi, which ended on Wednesday.

His attempt to play down Australia leadership at RAMSI did not succeed at the forum. Forum leaders instead wanted RAMSI in its current form.

But Mr Sogavare claimed victory over his suggestion for a review of the mission.

RAMSI deputy special coordinator Paul Ash yesterday welcomed the decision to review the mission.

On his return home from the forum with his staunch Melanesian counterpart, [Papua New Guinea Prime Minister] Sir Michael Somare, Mr Sogavare said: "I’m happy with RAMSI."

When pressed whether he has the same admiration for Australians in the mission, Sogavare said: "That’s the concern; it supposed to be RAMSI not AMSI (Australian Mission to Solomon Islands)," the prime minister said.

Mr Sogavare added that: "The concern of our government is that RAMSI has slowly lost its regional characteristics and it becomes a more AMSI thing, it becomes an Australian mission to Solomon Islands."

"It is a very serious concern especially when one country dominating RAMSI in very important institutions – court, police so you can almost see collusion at the highest level," the MP for East Choiseul said.

Mr Sogavare admitted that he wanted to see RAMSI has a more regional character rather than being dominated by Australia.

Meanwhile, the prime minister said there appears to be two regimes operating at the movement and that contradicts what RAMSI suppose to do.

"RAMSI supposed to assist SI," the prime minister said.

Sogavare said RAMSI is sending advisers and are occupying line positions under their guise but he wanted the responsibility transferred to Solomon Islanders

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