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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Acting Special Coordinator says RAMSI is working in partnership with Solomon Islanders towards peace and prosperity

by Anne McCaig

RAMSI Acting Special Coordinator Paul Ash has welcomed Solomon Islanders efforts to make their country a better place to live, grow and prosper.

Speaking on Tuesday to the Honiara Rotary Club, Mr Ash said that most people agree the Solomon Islands is a better place to live now than it was four years ago, although he cautioned that peace is fragile as demonstrated by the level of concern expressed during the recent re-arming debate.

“Consider how far Solomon Islands has come since July 2003. Children can safely go to school, women can go to market to buy and sell goods without fear, health clinics are open for business, the streets are safe, the economy works, people are investing in the future, justice is being done and being seen to be done,” Mr Ash said.

The senior New Zealand diplomat, whose two year post as RAMSI’s Deputy Special Coordinator ends in two weeks time, said it had been a special privilege to be able to serve Solomon Islanders. He said the experience had included inspirational moments. He noted in particular a soccer tournament at Kolina on the Weathercoast and a public meeting at Malu’u in North Malaita, which he said showed both how fragile peace can be and the power of reconciliation.

“Kolina soccer tournament on Easter Monday 2005 brought together teams from 24 villages that had been in conflict during the tensions. It was two years after RAMSI arrived but one team was still too afraid to approach the field until it was their turn to play.

“They hid in the forest, away from the soccer field. In the end, the weather intervened when a thunderstorm brought people together to shelter in a tent.

“In May the same year I accompanied the Pacific Islands Forum Eminent Persons Group to Malu’u. Six-hundred people were there to greet them, many holding banners urging RAMSI to stay in Solomon Islands; they were concerned that RAMSI was going to be sent home.”

“These kinds of experiences have given me and others the motivation and inspiration to keep working with Solomon Islanders to help create a peaceful and prosperous nation.”

The New Zealand diplomat said that attacks on RAMSI are particularly disappointing and perplexing given how much Solomon Islanders have achieved for their country with RAMSI’s support.

“We are not sure why these attacks are being made and how they contribute to a better relationship between Solomon Islands Government and RAMSI. They are not supported by the majority of Solomon Islanders as far as I can tell,” Mr Ash said.

“RAMSI has always said that we are willing to talk through any issues people may have with our work and seek constructive ways to move forward”.

“If warring communities on the Weathercoast can take shelter together, if villagers who once fought can join hands in reconciliation, and if people in Malu’u can join together to welcome our assistance, so can we all continue our efforts, and our partnerships to make Solomon Islands a better place for Solomon Islanders to live, grow and prosper”, Mr Ash said.

Source: RAMSI

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