Tonight (27 June) is about RAMSI thanking our close friends and the people of Solomon Islands.
I have a very simple message. It is to say thank you and goodbye to our Solomon Islands friends and partners over the last 14 years, on behalf of past and present RAMSI personnel and the governments of 15 Pacific nations.
We say thank you for being such wonderful hosts. It takes a very warm and generous heart to accept large numbers of outsiders into your communities and workplaces, and to still welcome us with warm smiles and warm waves 14 years later.
So, to our great friends, the people of Solomon Islands, I say in the language that unites you: “Tagio tumas long iufala evriwan for support blo iufala. Hem wanfala bigfala honour and wanfala bigfala privilege fo joinem hans witim iufala for mekem good moa kantri blo iufala.”
We will never forget our time together. We will never forget your kindness and blessings.
I would like to particularly pay tribute to the thousands of hard-working Solomon Islanders that worked side-by-side with RAMSI to reconstitute this nation: the elected, and the appointed; the members of the more than 20 national institutions and agencies that RAMSI has worked with; as well as the peace-builders and advocates of a better Solomon Islands that we partnered with in communities, the private sector, civil society, churches and provinces across the nation.
Together, with God’s guiding hand, we have made Solomon Islands a safer place. Together, we have helped governments to better represent and serve their people. Together, we have recovered the lost ground and delivered greater prosperity to the citizens of this nation. And, together, we have created the conditions so that Solomon Islanders can regain control of their lives and futures.
There were many unsung heroes who’s stories were never told, but who made an enormous difference in their field of expertise and service to the community. We honour them tonight.
Tonight, we also have representatives from the law enforcement, accountability and justice systems, the democratic institutions of this nation, a host of central ministries and bodies that support the public service, as well as the churches and civil society. I therefore put on the record our eternal thanks to you, your colleagues and your predecessors. Without you, Solomon Islands would not have come so far in 14 short years.
I would also like to mention specially the women and men of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force. As RAMSI’s main partner for the final four years of our Mission, we have watched with pride as you have grown from strength-to-strength and today are a modern, accountable, professional and disciplined police service that deserves the trust of the people your serve.
Of course, the path has sometimes been bumpy. For its part, RAMSI officers have done things that have offended our good hosts. For this, we apologise and seek your forgiveness. We ask you to release us by farewelling us this week with a smile, a wave and your blessing. We, too, leave with a smile, a wave and harbour no offence or ill-will. You have our blessings and will be in our prayers.
RAMSI is proud of the role it played in rebuilding this nation and, while tonight is about acknowledging and celebrating the support that RAMSI has received, I will ask you to indulge me to briefly thank the commanders, coordinators and members of the RAMSI Participating Police Force who have done an amazing job working with the RSIPF to ensure it is now ready to resume full responsibility for policing and national security.
I also acknowledge my team and the wonderful men and women that have worked as Special Coordinators and for SCs in the past. I especially commend Assistant Special Coordinator Masi Lomalama, from Fiji, who has served RAMSI and the interests of nation-building and reconciliation in Solomon Islands for a record 12 years.
I also salute the 15 RAMSI contributing nations – Australia, Cooks Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu – for their investment and commitment to the long-term reconstruction of this nation.
I make special mention of the largest and smallest nations in RAMSI: to Australia, who provided the leadership and 95% of the financial resources; and, to Niue, who for me epitomises RAMSI’s motto of helpem fren. Niue initially sent one-eighth of its entire police force – or two of its 16 members – to support Solomon Islands. That’s true regional friendship.
We often speak about friendship between Solomon Islands and the 15 countries of RAMSI, and the Mission was indeed dubbed Operation Helpem Fren. We do not often speak, however, at events like this about the personal friendships, which were the bedrock of our collaborative efforts. They were friendships that were forged during and after business hours.
The departure for those RAMSI officers here tonight is therefore ringed with sadness; as it has for been every RAMSI officer that has left personal friends and wonderful memories behind.
But, as with all genuine friendships forged through the pursuit of a common task, the working partnerships inevitably end, but the friendships do not.
So, while RAMSI will conclude on Friday, the genuine international-level and personal-level friendships and the support of the Pacific region will continue long after this week is over.
With that in mind, we won’t say good-bye. We will just say lukim iu.
And we wish you that the same wish of Jude of the New Testament to those that had been called. We wish you “mercy, love and peace be yours in abundance” (1:2). That’s what we, the past and present members of RAMSI, wish for Solomon Islands. We wish you mercy, love and peace in abundance.
Tagio tumas and lukim iu.