Last RAMSI Personnel From PNG Leave Solomon Islands

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Cultural, linguistic similarities ‘highly valuable’ in mission

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, April 1, 2013) – Papua New Guinea's last contingent of troops in the Solomon Islands as part of an international security program has left the country.

Soldiers from Papua New Guinea have served in the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) alongside Australian, New Zealand and Tongan troops for the past 10 years.

Wayne Higgins, RAMSI's special coordinator, has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat the troops' Melanesian connection, including pidgin language skills, has been highly valuable to the mission.

"It immediately breeds familiarity and people can relate to one another," he said. "It's an obvious plus."

The troops have been fare-welled in a ceremony in Honiara and will be replaced by a contingent from Tonga.

The rotation of RAMSI troops is a "routine activity" occurring every four months but Mr. Higgins says, subject to final ministerial consideration, this will be the last rotation of the Papua New Guinea platoon.

He says RAMSI will be transitioning to a police-focused mission mid-year and the military will "in all likelihood" be departing the country.

RAMSI's development programs will continue under the guidance of "bi lateral and other donors" and the mission's regional focus will be retained.

"A lot of the elements of RAMSI are remaining but under a different name, but RAMSI itself will continue as a police-focused mission," Mr. Higgins said.

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