This week we close the book on the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands. It has been an unprecedented and highly successful exercise in regional cooperation, restoring law and order, and resetting national institutions.
Never before had the region stepped in on such a large scale to help a friend in need and to rebuild that friend so completely.
There was no blueprint; nor any template to follow. Still, Solomon Islanders and RAMSI police, military, advisers and diplomats from 15 nations proved that all challenges could be overcome with a shared goal and commitment to the reconstruction of this nation and the reconstituting of the Hapi Isles.
Together, with God’s guiding hand we returned peace to this nation and made it a safe place to live, work and raise children. We delivered greater prosperity by turning around the economy and putting it on a stable path.We made progress by making governments and democratic institutions more accountable, and better able to serve their citizens; and we provided the time, space and environment for healing, nation building and returning joy to the Hapi Isles.
After 10 years of enormous gains, RAMSI’s military task force, which was comprised of the region’s five armed forces, departed and the region’s support for the courts, prisons, ministries, Parliament and economy shifted to bilateral development partners.
Another 4 years on, we have arrived at this day,a day where Solomon Islands no longer needs a 15-nation RAMSI Participating Police Force. The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, which has been RAMSI’s main partner during the final four years of our Mission, is now a capable, accountable and professional force:
- One that deserves the trust of the people it serves
- and it is a force that is ready to resume full responsibility for policing and national security.
Things are back to normal and – in most respects – better than they were before the Tensions.
RAMSI’s job is done. But that does not mean that RAMSI contributing nations won’t continue to support Solomon Islands long after this ceremony concludes.
Indeed, Australia and New Zealand begin bilateral police assistance programs on Saturday. Nor does RAMSI’s departure mean that the process of recovery and nation-building ends here.
There is more work to be done and RAMSI is confident that Solomon Islands is up to the task.
Let me conclude with some heartfelt words of thanks.
To the gathered Leaders of RAMSI contributing nations, on behalf of RAMSI, the institution, we join Solomon Islands to:
- salute Australia for its leadership, commitment and resources
- thank the governments and peoples of the Pacific Islands (important to name) – Cook Islands, FSM, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu – for your contributions to RAMSI over the last 14 years
RAMSI’s regional composition was critical to our success. We also acknowledge the families across the Pacific that missed their loved ones while they were here helping a friend. We remember that Australia, Niue and Vanuatu lost sons and daughters
Six RAMSI personnel lost their lives while serving their nations, RAMSI and this country; two while on operational duty. We honour them.
Very importantly, I also wish to express our deep appreciation to the people and governments of Solomon Islands.
We honour the unsung heroes, whose contributions in their area of expertise or through community service have made this country a better place.
We honour those who were touched by the Tensions, sometimes through the death of loved ones, but were still willing to have peace in their heart.
We pay tribute to the thousands of Solomon Islanders who worked with RAMSI and supported us in big and small ways.
We thank you, our partners and the people of Solomon Islands, for showing us such kindness, friendship and hospitality over the last 14 years.
It means so much to us that you still hold us in the same high regard today, as you did when we first arrived.
RAMSI will leave with pride and optimism for this country. We will miss you. We will always remember you and you in will be in our prayers.
So, in the language that unites you, I wish to say on behalf of past and present RAMSI personnel:
- Tagio tumas. Tagio tumas long evriwan long Solomon Aelans for support blo iufala.
- Hem wanfala bigfala privilege for joinem hans witim iufala fo mekem good moa kantri blo iufala.
And my final message is to the young people of Solomon Islands. Fourteen years ago, RAMSI arrived to find a nation ravaged by lawlessness, fear and tragedy caused by men with guns.
Never forget the lessons of the past.Violence leads only to sorrow, pain and trauma.
Find something that you love doing that makes a positive contribution to your community or your nation, and this nation will continue to grow from strength-to-strength and will remain the Hapi Isles for ever more.
The national anthem of Solomon Islands is a beautiful prayer. So, we, RAMSI, part wishing wholeheartedly that:
- God blesses Solomon Islands from shore to shore
- That nations may continue to see, brothers be
- and that the people of this beautiful nation continue to experience joy, peace, progress and prosperity.
- Tagio tumas and lukim iu.