Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully and Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman today confirmed the departure of the New Zealand platoon from the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI).
“RAMSI is a great example of a Pacific solution to a Pacific problem. At the request of the Solomon Islands Government, Pacific Island countries helped a friend in serious trouble,” Mr McCully says.
“As well as stopping conflict in the Solomon Islands, RAMSI helped restore unity, rebuild institutions and strengthen the nation’s economy.
“RAMSI’s presence has also provided space for development work, allowing the Solomon Islands and New Zealand to focus on economic growth and education.”
Dr Coleman says the returning platoon does not mean the end of New Zealand’s commitment to the Solomon Islands or the end of RAMSI.
“Although this may be the last New Zealand platoon deployed to RAMSI, we will continue to have NZDF personnel in the mission’s headquarters until the military component withdraws. This will likely occur in the middle of 2013, pending final agreement by the Australian and New Zealand governments.
“The mission will then focus on building the capacity of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force and New Zealand police will remain with RAMSI to support this effort. RAMSI is not finishing or exiting and will remain a regional mission, but its mandate will be smaller,” Dr Coleman says.
As well as New Zealand’s on-going policing contribution, development support to the Solomon Islands will continue, Mr McCully says.
“RAMSI’s transition can only happen because security has been restored. It is time for the mission to step back to enable the Solomon Islands to take the lead in shaping its future.
“New Zealand will continue to support the Solomon Islands to ensure progress made since RAMSI began in 2003 is sustained, and the mission’s legacy is protected,” Mr McCully says.