Final New Zealand platoon hands over

The last New Zealand platoon likely to deploy to RAMSI’s military contingent handed over its responsibilities to an incoming Australian platoon in a short ceremony at the mission’s headquarters today.

The ceremony brings to a close almost a decade of deployment by the New Zealand Defence Force to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands.

RAMSI Special Coordinator, Nicholas Coppel who thanked the New Zealand Defence Force for their long and large contribution to the mission, said that under current plans the size of RAMSI’s military contingent will stay the same well into the middle of next year.

“At this stage the plan is for the military contingent to remain until 30 June next year when RAMSI will then shift its focus solely to its work in building the capacity of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force,” Mr Coppel said.

NZ Defence Force Land Component Commander, Brigadier Mark Wheeler, who flew to Solomon Islands especially for today’s historical ceremony, told troops from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga gathered on the mission’s parade ground that is was clear that RAMSI had been a very successful Pacific solution to a Pacific problem.

“Over 1500 NZ Defence Force personnel have contributed to the mission and our personnel can be proud of the role they have played helping Solomon Islands to develop their own stability, governance and prosperity.

“Significant progress has been made and the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force are clearly demonstrating they have the capability to manage the security situation. As a result when we leave Solomon Islands, we will be leaving a stable county with a very bright future,” Brigadier Wheeler said.

RAMSI Chaplain, Wayne Toleafoa closed the ceremony with a prayer for endings and new beginnings.