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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pacific Islanders in RAMSI insulted by "Camouflaged" comment from PM Sogavare: Lomaloma

Pacific Islanders serving in RAMSI had been deeply distressed by Prime Minister’s recent comments that they were simply ‘camouflage’, RAMSI’s Assistant Special Coordinator, Mataiasi Lomaloma said today.

The most senior Pacific Island representative to the Regional Assistance Mission, Mr Lomaloma said that the hundreds of Pacific Islanders who had served in the mission were proud to be part of RAMSI and could not understand why the Prime Minister would want to dismiss their contributions as ‘camouflage’ for Australian foreign policy initiatives.

“While RAMSI is led and mostly funded by Australia, it is also one of the most successful initiatives ever undertaken by the Pacific Islands Forum and this just would not be possible without the contributions of all the member countries,” Mr Lomaloma said.

“We are honoured and we are proud to come and serve in RAMSI,” Mr Lomaloma, a senior Fijian public servant, said.

Pacific Island nations are sovereign states just like Solomon Islands with leaders capable of making their own foreign policy decisions he said.

“We do not just go along with Australia as the prime minister appears to be suggesting.”

“All our nations are signatories to the Bikatawa Agreement, all of our governments made their own independent decision to enter RAMSI. Some of us joined in the beginning other Pacific Island nations have come on aboard at a later date,” Mr Lomaloma said.

Speaking in last month’s adjournment debate, Mr Sogavare accused Australia of having a ‘recolonisation’ agenda in Solomon Islands and went on to say that: I don’t see any genuineness in the intervention in Solomon Islands and the neat thing is, they drag the other Pacific Island countries (in) to camouflage this agenda.”

Mr Lomloma said for the men and women of RAMSI who had left behind their island homes and family to serve in the mission deserved better than this.

“A number of women serving here in the Solomon Islands actually have very young babies you know, some as young as two years old. These ladies have come forward to serve their nation and to come to the Solomon Islands to genuinely try to assist the Solomon Islands.

“To suggest to these people, these nation’s who reached out to a neighbour in their time of need, that we are somehow dancing to a foreign government’s tune is very demeaning, very insulting; I think we deserved a better comment than what the Hon Prime Minister has said.” Mr Lomaloma said.

Source: RAMSI

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