I stand here, on behalf of the thousands of women and men that came from 15 nations across the Pacific over the last 14 years fo helpem fren; to help a friend in need; to end the violence; to stabilise the country and its economy; to help national and provincial governments to better represent and serve their citizens; and to create the conditions where Solomon Islanders could resume control of their lives and futures.
Never before had the Pacific region stepped in on such a large scale to help one of its neighbours rebuild itself so completely.
The results speak for themselves. This country has bounced back. It has recovered the lost ground. It now has good institutional foundations to tackle its development challenges and to continue the fight against those things that threaten to hold the country back.
Of course, the re-building process does not stop just because RAMSI is leaving.
RAMSI’s exit is a vote of confidence in Solomon Islands. It reflects our view that Solomon Islands will ‘stand tall’ and to take responsibility and ownership of its future. It also reflects our belief that Solomon Islands has a strong, capable and professional police force that deserves the trust of the people it serves.
But, equally, you can be assured that the RAMSI contributing nations will still continue to help this nation long after RAMSI leaves wherever their help is sought.
RAMSI personnel have been overwhelmed and truly humbled by the outpouring of praise and thanks from governments, chiefs, churches, women’s and youth groups and civil society from all corners of the nation.
We are proud of our contribution to returning peace and stability to this nation, but we are also very conscious that we did not do it alone, and could not have done it alone.
So on this day of giving thanks, I wish to acknowledge the unselfish investments of police, military, advisers and diplomats by Australia, New Zealand and 13 Pacific Islands nations.
I also acknowledge the personal sacrifices of the men and women that left their families and friends behind to support the re-constituting of the Hapi Isles – in particular, the six personnel from Australia, Niue and Vanuatu that lost their lives while serving their nations, RAMSI and Solomon Islands.
And, most importantly, I give deep and heartfelt thanks – on behalf of past and present members of RAMSI – to the thousands of Solomon Islanders that supported us over the years, in big ways and small ways.
RAMSI has enjoyed the staunch and lasting support of the people of Solomon Islands. We will be eternally grateful for your friendship, partnership and hospitality since 2003.
We will remember the smiles, the laughter and happy waves of welcome and good-bye. We will also remember the sadness that this week brings for all parties as we part forever friends and good neighbours, and as RAMSI says tagio tumas long evriwan long Solomon Aelans fo support blo iufala.
Together, we have achieved great things in what historians and peace-builders will tell us is a short period of time.
Together, we have built a new and brighter future for Solomon Islands.
So as RAMSI leaves, and as Solomon Islands begins to write its own future, independently, once again, I am reminded of a passage from the King James Version of the New Testament, from the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 11, sometime called the ‘final greetings’. It reads: Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you.
That is my wish for you. God Bless Solomon Islands from shore to shore. God bless its people and all its lands.