RAMSI voices concern over basis of proposed review of Facilitation of International Assistance Act
Speaking at a press conference in Honiara yesterday, Mr George said he had hoped to raise these concerns directly with the Prime Minister but had not been able to get an appointment to see Mr Sogavare.
He had also hoped to have the opportunity this week to raise the matters behind closed doors during the now postponed Enhanced Consultative Mechanism meeting between the Solomon Islands Government, the Pacific Islands Forum and RAMSI.
Mr George said he welcomed the recent parliamentary debate on RAMSI and the interest taken by the Members of Parliament in the mission’s work.
“We in RAMSI are very happy to talk and work through issues to do with RAMSI at any stage with Membersof Parliament, or anyone else,” Mr George said
However RAMSI had four key concerns.
Firstly RAMSI is concerned that the proposed FIA Act review as outlined by the Attorney General, Mr Moti, in Parliament was not really based on matters of legal substance.
“The Attorney General’s Memorandum of Advice is a very flawed and muddled document which in a number of cases strays into areas of policy,” Mr George said.
The Memorandum contained a number of misconceptions about RAMSI, about the FIA Act, and also about the nature of the partnership with the Solomon Islands Government, Mr George said.
“It also raises a number of matters that are not relevant to the Act and identifies a number of policy issues that have already been worked through very well and received close scrutiny during the Forum review process.
“The memorandum reveals a negative mindset towards RAMSI,” he said.
“What does concern me, is the fact, and the prime minister made this clear, that the forthcoming review of the FIA Act will be based on this memorandum.”
Secondly Mr George said that in recent months there had been a serious lack of transparency surrounding the government’s intentions with the FIA Act which ran counter to the spirit of the Solomon Islands Government-RAMSI partnership.
“In July we were told that the Attorney General was planning to challenge the FIA Act in the Court of Appeal and that he would brief us; that has never happened. We still do not know the status of this initiative.
“Then without any prior notice or consultation with RAMSI, the Attorney General’s dubious memorandum was presented to parliament as the basis for a review of the act.
“Last week we learnt through the media that the Government was intending to hold a workshop for MPs on the proposed review of the act even before the Forum RAMSI Review processes were complete,” Mr George said.
The Forum processes provide a very constructive way forward for RAMSI and Solomon Islands and indeed covers the range of issues that have been raised by members of Parliament, Mr George said.
“We had been very encouraged by the Government’s commitment to the Forum process. It is therefore deeply disappointing that this week’s ECM (Enhanced Consultative Mechanism) meeting could not go ahead as planned,” he said.
Thirdly, Mr George said he was concerned the proposed review of the FIA Act runs the risk of cutting across the Pacific Islands Forum Taskforce Review process.
The just completed Forum Review was a process initiated at the request of the Solomon Islands Government, following closely the terms of reference proposed by the Solomon Islands Government he said.
“The issues that the Solomon Islands Government wished to raise such as an exit strategy, the question of immunities, sovereignty and RAMSI’s accountability have been dealt with quite comprehensively and in full consultation with the Solomon Islands Government in the review,” he said.
It is a report that maps out a very good way forward for the RAMSI Solomon Islands Government partnership Mr George said.
“It include some very positive proposals for improved oversight by the Forum of RAMSI and also some very good proposals to strengthen the partnership between RAMSI and the Solomon Islands Government.
“This would seem the obvious starting point for any examination of RAMSI by MPs or others,” he said.
RAMSI contributing countries also had a strong and very legitimate interest in any moves to change the FIA Act, they should not just be informed of any such plans but engaged in a genuine and through process of consultation he said.
Fourthly, Mr George said he was concerned that there were also mixed messages coming from the Government about RAMSI and its role.
“On one hand we do have a very good working relationship with senior government officials in the areas such as law and justice, economic governance and machinery of government that RAMSI programs are involved in.
“We have also been working very well with the Government’s Special Envoy, Michael Maina and the Forum’s representative to the Solomon Islands, Lesi Korovavala,” he said.
The Prime Minister and other Ministers and Members of Parliament have also made some very positive acknowledgement of RAMSI’s efforts during last month’s parliamentary session.
“At the same time the Prime Minister has accused RAMSI of being a ‘tool’ of Australian efforts to re-colonise Solomon Islands,” Mr George said. “This is simply not true.”
More recently the Prime Minister has stated that RAMSI has ‘grossly undermined’ the laws and systems of Solomon Islands.
“I take strong exception to that comment. RAMSI was asked to help Solomon Islands regain the ability to once again enforce its own laws and systems and that is exactly what we have done.”