COMMONWEALTH OFFICIAL PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR RAMSI

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By Robert L. Iroga

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Nov. 1) - Secretary General Don McKinnon has pledged the British Commonwealth’s support behind the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) for its work in the country.

Mr. McKinnon’s support comes only a week after Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare threatened to throw RAMSI out of the country over the suspended Attorney General’s saga with Australia.

But after meeting Sogavare, McKinnon said: "We support RAMSI and we want to continue working with RAMSI."

Sogavare was critical of Australia’s dominance in RAMSI and wanted more engagement from regional countries.

McKinnon hopes that the Prime Minister’s concerns will not lead to the exit of RAMSI.

The New Zealander believes that RAMSI will remain in the Solomons for a longer period not just a few more years.

"We see ourselves as one of the partners of RAMSI," he said.

However, whilst supporting RAMSI, McKinnon said the Commonwealth is not an integral part of RAMSI but their programs are parallel.

"We are not an integral part of RAMSI, we believe the programs we have are very much parallel to what RAMSI is trying to achieve in good governance area and development," he said.

Solomon Islands stands to benefit under the Commonwealth’s PAN Pacific program recently announced in Fiji.

Some of the areas, which it will focus on, include governance, anti-corruption and land.

Commonwealth has already assisted the Solomons especially in the judiciary sector.

McKinnon said the Commonwealth would remain interested in what is happing in the Solomon Islands and will always ready to help.

McKinnon leaves for Vanuatu today where he will spend two days before returning to London, England.

In Port Villa, he will meet with Prime Minister Ham Lini and President Kalkot Mataskelekele where he will discuss the Pacific Plan.

The Commonwealth is working closely with PIF Secretariat in Suva to contribute to the implementation of the Pacific Plan.

McKinnon spends six days in Honiara, which will go down in his history book as the longest time he has spent in any Commonwealth country during his time as Secretary General so far.

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