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Solomon Islands urges greater UN involvement in regional peace operations

Solomon Islands urges greater UN involvement in regional peace operations

The United Nations needs to become more involved in the management of regional peacekeeping operations in trouble spots or the lead countries in those missions will inevitably use them for the benefit of their own economic interests, the Solomon Islands’ Foreign Minister told the General Assembly today.

Patteson Oti said his Government has begun a parliamentary review of the legislative basis for the continuing presence in his country of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI), which was deployed in 2003 to try to quell violent unrest after years of simmering ethnic tensions.

RAMSI comprises police, military and civilian personnel from Australia, New Zealand and 13 Pacific island nations.

While the visiting forces deserve credit for restoring law and order, Mr. Oti said, the underlying social and cultural causes of tensions in the Solomon Islands have not been addressed.

“Moreover, those who pay the piper call the tune… Howsoever dressed and rationalized, intervention and occupation allow ‘assisting’ nations to spend and earn substantial revenue for their supporting businesses and industries,” he said.

“Mine is too nationalistic a Government to become captive to the fortunes which justify our perpetual retention under siege. My Prime Minister, fellow Government ministers and parliamentarians, as well as our Attorney-General, remained unmoved by Australian resistance to our attempts to reclaim our sovereignty and independence.”

Mr. Oti said the Solomon Islands’ experience with “the Australian-designed ‘cooperative intervention’ package demonstrates the need for greater UN involvement in the leadership of future regional peacekeeping operations.”

Noting his multiple-entry visitor visa to Australia was cancelled suddenly last year on the grounds that he was “a risk to the health, safety and good order of the Australian community,” the Foreign Minister said it was an illustration of “international anxiety, insecurity and paranoia” about the threat of terrorism.

“One would have to admit that is an incredible justification for excluding democratically elected leaders of neighbouring countries unknown for breeding terrorists,” he said.

Using the right of reply, Australia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Robert Hill said on Tuesday night that it was completely unfounded to suggest that RAMSI was an occupying force and in breach of the UN Charter.

Mr. Hill said RAMSI was not acting as a substitute for the Government in the Solomon Islands, but to create an environment so that the Government can deliver basic services, rebuild its institutions and enforce its laws and regulations.

He added that there were a series of mechanisms in place as well to ensure that the mission is accountable.

New Zealand’s Permanent Representative Rosemary Banks told the Assembly on Wednesday that RAMSI “is entirely consistent” with the principles and purposes of the UN Charter.

“Its presence in the Solomon Islands is sanctioned by treaty, and by the domestic law of the Solomon Islands,” Ms. Banks said, noting that it was only established in response to a formal request of the Pacific island country’s Government.