3 June 2016
From the High Commissioner's Desk : RAMSI may be leaving, but Australia is staying
Last week I was in Canberra for a meeting of all Australian High Commissioners from around the Pacific. There was a lot of interest in Solomon Islands ahead of RAMSI’s likely departure next year. RAMSI is widely seen as a great success story not just for Solomon Islands and Australia, but for the whole Pacific. And in Canberra, there’s a lot of focus on ensuring that Australia continues to give Solomon Islands the support it needs after RAMSI departs.
RAMSI’s core mission now, of course, is the development of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF). So once RAMSI departs, Australia will support the RSIPF directly with our own bilateral policing program. We’re in the early stages of designing that program, in consultation with the RSIPF and the government, so the details are yet to be worked out. But it will almost certainly involve a large contingent of Australian Federal Police, based in Honiara under the umbrella of the High Commission and working closely with their RSIPF counterparts.
We’re also thinking about how Australia will be able to support Solomon Islands if an emergency arises in the future, whether it’s a natural disaster, a security issue or some other contingency. So we’ve commenced discussions with the government about a post-RAMSI mechanism that will enable Solomon Islands to ask for operational assistance from Australia, and allow Australia to provide it quickly.
And finally, we’d like to establish a regular bilateral security dialogue between Australia and Solomon Islands, where our senior officials can meet and discuss global and regional security issues of mutual interest.
These new initiatives will enable Australia to continue supporting peace and security in Solomon Islands after RAMSI departs. I hope they’ll also give all Solomon Islanders confidence that although RAMSI may be leaving, Australia is not going anywhere.
And of course, we’ll also continue supporting economic growth and human development in Solomon Islands, through our third-largest aid program. So in addition to our new initiatives to support peace and security, we’ll continue our existing programs in basic education, vocational skills, the health system, malaria eradication, infrastructure, governance, the legal system, women’s economic empowerment, rural development and a host of other things besides. The way in which Australia helps Solomon Islands will change a little after RAMSI goes, but our commitment to help will be undiminished.
Meanwhile it’s election season in Australia, which means our government is currently in caretaker mode until the election on 2 July. If we do have a change of government in Canberra, I’d expect the incoming government would want to review all of Australia’s foreign policies and aid programs. But both of our major political parties have demonstrated a strong commitment to Solomon Islands over many years, and I’m very confident that won’t change.
Of course, the election also means that it’s time for Australians to prepare to vote, including the many Australians living in or visiting the Hapi Isles. There are two ways to vote. One option is to apply on line for a postal vote at www.aec.gov.au.
Alternatively, you can vote in person at the High Commission on weekdays from 20 June to 1 July, between 9.30am and 4.30pm. Just bring your current Australian passport with you. Please note, though, that we won’t be open for voting on election day itself.