Speech by Prime Minister of Solomon Islands at opening of FMSC

- Hon. Taumeapeau Tupou, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Tonga and the Chair of the Forum Ministerial Standing Committee on RAMSI,
- Hon. Stephen Smith, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia,
- Hon. William Haomae, Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade of Solomon Islands,
- Hon. Billy Talagi, Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs of Niue,
- Hon. Sali Subam Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Papua New Guinea,
- Chief Executive Officers and Permanent Secretaries,
- Mr. Peter Forau, Deputy Secretary General of PIFS,
- Mr. Tim George, Special Coordinator of RAMSI,
- Excellencies,
- Distinguished Officials,
- Ladies and gentlemen.

Good morning! Let me at the outset, on behalf of the Government and people of Solomon Islands warmly welcome you back to Honiara, Solomon Islands for the second Foreign Ministers Standing Committee meeting on RAMSI. Your presence and participation in this meeting demonstrates the significance your governments continue to attach to the partnership between RAMSI, the Forum Secretariat and the Solomon Islands Government, and thus I wish to thank you for taking time from your busy schedules to be here today.

Distinguished Ministers, I wish to assure you that my Government remains committed to working closely with RAMSI and the Pacific Islands Forum, Secretariat through dialogue and in a respectful consultative manner. Following, the first Foreign Minister’s standing Committee Meeting on RAMSI in February this year, the SIG and RAMSI have worked closely on the SIG-RAMSI Partnership Framework, called for by the FMSC during that meeting. The context of the SIG-RAMSI Partnership Framework gives you an insight into where my government is coming from.

Distinguished Ministers, the Solomon Islands Government attaches a lot of importance to this framework as it will define a new phase in our relationship. In this regard, my Cabinet has endorsed the framework prepared by our officials as the basis for negotiations or consultations with RAMSI. In keeping with the spirit of maintaining the regional character of RAMSI we have also endorsed that the Forum Representative in Honiara oversee the negotiations and consultations on the partnership framework. I am led to understand that RAMSI has kindly agreed to proceed on these bases. Without going into the details, the SIG proposed Framework embraces the priority areas that are outlined in our policy, strategies and implementation documents, as well as, in our draft Medium term Development Strategy that we recently adopted. These areas are vital to our efforts to achieve rural advancement.

My Government understands that there are certain proposals in our proposed framework that RAMSI may not be able to accommodate as they could fall outside its current mandates. In this regard, we are committed to working closely with the Forum and RAMSI to find the way forward. I am also confident that your Meeting today will establish a suitable process to undertake further consultations with a view to adopting an agreed Partnership Framework Agreement by the end of this year.

Distinguished Ministers, with regards to the 2007 Forum RAMSI Review Report, my Government unfortunately has been unable to convene a Parliamentary Select Committee to consider the report and recommend it for our endorsement. An Officials’ Committee will now pursue the matter and I am confident that I will be able to report to the Leaders on it during the Niue Forum next month. A good number of the recommendations that are contained in the report are already being implemented or in the process of being implemented, as a result of our policy directives and commitment, and given our close cooperation with the RAMSI and the Forum.

On the issue of the review of RAMSI, including in particular the review of the International Assistance Notice, my Cabinet has just deliberated on a submission on how a Parliamentary review of RAMSI we will be undertaken under our relevant Parliamentary Standing Orders. Cabinet has therefore decided on how this process will be pursued by our Parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee. This Committee in this regard will among other tasks be instructed to review the international assistance notices and conduct public hearings to invite stakeholders to make written submissions or appear before the Committee. My Cabinet has also approved that the Agreement between SIG and the Forum (on RAMSI), the RAMSI Review Report, the SIG/RAMSI Partnership Framework, and the conclusions of your meetings should be submitted to the Parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee, hence the importance of this meeting. On the other hand, my Government is aware that the current mandates of RAMSI can be reviewed in consultation with the Forum or RAMSI troop contributing countries.

Furthermore, Distinguished Ministers, I wish to inform you that my government is pleased with the implementation of the new reporting format that was agreed to at your February meeting. The fact that RAMSI reports are now first submitted to my Cabinet before transmission to the other Forum Members is not only a way of providing regular updates or information to my Government on RAMSI activities but is also a matter of courtesy and recognition of Solomon Islands as the main stakeholder in RAMSI. Certainly the new reporting format will improve better communication and understanding of RAMSI activities. My Government would also be grateful if future reports could be as detailed as possible, to include financial and budget report details for purposes of sustainability, and to contribute towards the phase out strategy my Government is proposing.

Distinguished Ministers, I am aware that the Government of Japan has offered to assist or participate in RAMSI. My Government wishes to acknowledge this important and genuine gesture from one of our important bilateral and development partners. However, since RAMSI is a regional undertaking, we would appreciate further clarification on this offer, as well as, the views of other forum members on the matter. Off course we do also have the bilateral channel where such an offer could be considered as well. I will leave this matter to your most capable hands to; recommend how we could usefully utilize this offer, and to consider its implication on other donors and our relationship with them .

Above all, I hope that as you deliberate on the issues before you, in particular on the Partnership Framework, you should always note that RAMSI is here to strengthen Solomon Islands sovereignty including the long term sustainability of our institutions.

Finally, I wish to take this opportunity to sincerely acknowledge the contributions and efforts of Mr. Greg Urwin, our Forum Secretary General, (who because of his illness has to resign from his post ), towards the establishment of the ECM and the FMSC, and above all his support for RAMSI and the Forum Secretariat’s work in Solomon Islands. I wish him a speedy recovery.

With these remarks, I wish you all a successful deliberation and hope you will enjoy the rest of your stay in Honiara. On that note, I have the honor to officially open this meeting.

Thank you.