NEW RAMSI CHIEF PROMISES COOPERATION IN SOLOMONS

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Nov. 9) – New RAMSI [Regional Assistance Mission Solomon Islands] coordinator Tim George has pledged to work together with the government as the regional mission welcomes its third leader in three years.

Speaking to journalists yesterday, Mr George said: "I’m very keen to engage with the government. I’m very keen to establish close and constructive relationship with the Government as I can."

Mr George’s pledge comes weeks after Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare threatened to kick RAMSI out and pushed for the removal of Australia’s dominance of the mission.

[PIR editor’s note: RAMSI is an international peacekeeping force headed by Australia that has been in the Solomons since July 2003. The force has been credited with restoring law and order in the country after several years of instability. Fourteen countries have a presence in RAMSI, including Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and Marshall Islands. The mission currently includes 250 to 300 police officers, 120 civilians and a contingent of military personnel]

The special coordinator said Australia has a strong, ongoing commitment to RAMSI as a leading role and would continue to do so.

Mr George also cited the process of review by a task force to be identified by the Forum as "a good one".

Mr George highlighted that such reviews provide a framework from where "we can look at all the issues regarding RAMSI in taking it forward".

He also highlighted that RAMSI is doing a very good work and it would be going on for several more years.

"I will do my bit to make contribution to law and justice, economic governances and machinery of government," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr George said he is delighted to be in the Solomons to take on the responsibility.

He reiterated his intention to work closely with the government and other members of the society and all countries participating in RAMSI.

The special coordinator said he was struck by many things that happened here and he has heard many expressions of support to RAMSI from people he met and different representatives of societies.

Outgoing Special Coordinator James Batley thanked and farewelled the many people he had worked with during his time in the Solomons.

"I want to say good bye, farewell to the so many people I met and work with during my time in Solomon Islands," Mr Batley said in his final interview.

He leaves this morning.

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