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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Australian leaders reject Oti's claim at the United Nations

By Nina Tuhaika

Claims by the Solomon Islands Minister of Foreign Affairs that the Australian Government had his multiple entry visa cancelled in response to fears of international terrorism has been dismissed as "untrue".

Hon. Patteson Oti made the claim when he addressed the 62nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, Mr Peter Hooton, in response said that Mr Oti knows "this is patently untrue".

In a statement, Mr Hooton explained that Mr Oti's visa, and the existing visas of all Solomon Islands' Members of Parliament, were cancelled in September 2006 in response to the unjustified expulsion from Solomon Islands of his predecessor, Patrick Cole.

He adds that since then, applications by MPs for visas to Australia have been considered on a case by case basis.

Meanwhile, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer has urged the Solomon Islands Government to think about the interests of the ordinary people of the Solomons, not just about their own personal interests.

Downer made the comment in response to his Solomon Islands counterpart, Patterson Oti's "horrific spray" towards the regional assistance, RAMSI, and its leadership in the UN General Assembly.

Speaking at the 62nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York a couple of nights ago, Mr Oti said Australian-led peacekeepers were engaged in a "continuing occupation" of his country.

He told the meeting that the Solomons government wanted to see more UN involvement in the peacekeeping operation and was seeking to change the rules under which the mission operated.

In an interview with ABC News Radio, Mr Downer said the comments by Mr Oti "doesn't really surprise me" as a coalition of politicians led by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare are "always there attacking Australia and attacking RAMSI."

"It doesn't really surprise me because you've got a coalition of politicians led by Mr Sogavare and including Patterson Oti, the Foreign Minister, and of course the so-called Attorney General, Mr Moti, who want to destroy RAMSI," he said.

"...what stands between RAMSI and its destruction, to tell you the truth, is the very strong public support there is in Solomon Islands for the continuation of RAMSI so we're kind of used to this," Mr Downer said.

He said the worrying issue is "the interests of the ordinary people of the Solomon Islands, frankly and if RAMSI were to fail, then I think the consequences for the ordinary people of the Solomons would be dire and that's why they don't want it to fail and I don't want it to fail."

Source: Solomon Times

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