Solomon Star

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (July 23) – "Sad." That’s the reaction to hearing New Zealand Defence Minister Phil Goff trying to divert attention from the interim report of the Commission of Inquiry into the April 2006 riots.

He instead points a finger at the two Members of Parliament charged with allegedly having a role in the riots.

Goff says that the interim report does not focus on who was responsible for the riots. He further states that the report should look at how these politicians were dealt with and why they are free today.

It’s patently unfair for someone of Goff’s stature to make such a sweeping early conclusion when the commission has yet to complete its task. His comments undermine his own reputation for fairness.

Especially when he is so far away and has not had the benefit – as the Commissioners have – of hearing all the evidence to date.

Also, the Members of Parliament he spotlights are still to face trial. They have not been found guilty. Goff appears to be sailing close to prejudging them. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

The New Zealand and Australian governments do much good work here. So do their police officers. Many people here are grateful for the role they play.

But this should not distract from the commission’s findings.

It’s no secret that the Australians and New Zealanders have been worried that the inquiry will put the spotlight on the performance of their own officers,

The strong Australian opposition to the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry is a case in point.

The interim findings point clearly to both the Participating Police Force and Australian-led Solomon Islands Police Force lacking foresight and being unprepared to manage the riots.

The Commission is not alone in that view.

There are also questions over the way local officers – who could have been able to help – appear to have been largely sidelined.

The Commission, though Government sponsored, is independent and so are its findings.

It is independent not just of the Government here. It is also independent of Australian or New Zealand influence. Which is how it should be.

It’s important that our bigger and richer neighbors accept the Commission’s findings and treat them as lessons to be learned.

They should be seen as a help to everyone in preventing such disastrous events in future.

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