RAMSI celebrates 13th anniversary at Yam Festival

Over one thousand people from the southern region of Malaita joined in the celebrations to mark the 13th anniversary of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) held on 24 July at the Yam Cultural Festival at Pululaha Village, on Small Malaita, Malaita Province.

“We wanted to celebrate RAMSI’s ‘birthday’ with the people of Solomon Islands and discovered that the 13th anniversary of RAMSI’s arrival on 24 July 2003 coincided with the opening of the inaugural Yam Cultural Festival in Small Malaita.  It was a perfect match and I would like to thank the Member of Parliament for Small Malaita and the Festival Organising Committee for inviting RAMSI to be part of this special event,” said Quinton Devlin, the Special Coordinator of RAMSI.

The Special Coordinator explained that while RAMSI’s anniversary celebrations presented a moment to reflect on RAMSI’s contribution to the re-building of the nation, the best test of RAMSI’s success was to look at how far Solomon Islands itself had progressed.

“The convening of large community events such as this Yam Cultural Festival is another clear manifestation of the reality that Solomon Islands is now a stable and secure country that has come a long way since RAMSI’s arrival thirteen years ago,” said Mr Devlin.

“It is wonderful to see Solomon Islanders moving freely between provinces and the emergence of clever and innovative efforts to showcase rural areas and improve economic livelihoods outside provincial capitals.”

In his 13th anniversary speech, Mr Devlin said RAMSI’s mission was nearly complete and he confirmed that this would be RAMSI’s last anniversary celebrations in the country as the Mission would conclude in 11 months’ time.

“RAMSI was invited by the Solomon Islands Government in 2003 to do three things: to restore law and order; to stabilise the country’s finances; and, to re-start the machinery of government. Significant progress on all three fronts has enabled RAMSI to draw down over several years and, since 2013, to focus solely on police capacity development. Now it is time for RAMSI to depart – as agreed – on 30 June 2017 and for policing support from the Pacific region to normalise,” he said.

RAMSI helped return peace to Solomon Islands, with almost 4,000 firearms removed from the communities and over 3,000 people arrested in the first year alone.

“RAMSI also rebuilt the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF), which today is one of the best police services in the region and is more than ready to resume full responsibility for the nation’s security when RAMSI concludes,” said Mr Devlin.

RAMSI’s economic and financial advisory and in-line support for the first 10 years of the Mission also saw the economy grow dramatically, government revenue recover strongly, national budgets be balanced, and public debt fall markedly. RAMSI also helped reform the country’s tax system and financial oversight bodies, as well as strengthen the public sector, parliament and election management.

The Special Coordinator added: “The time for a 15-nation regional intervention is over, but RAMSI contributing nations will continue to support law and order in the country. The DCC Government is already working closely, for example, with countries such as Australia and New Zealand to develop bilateral policing assistance programs and other forms of security support beyond RAMSI.”

As part of the 13th anniversary celebrations in Small Malaita, RAMSI donated sewing machines to the Matangasi Mothers Union and sports equipment to the Maka Primary School. A team from the Office of the Special Coordinator led by the Assistant Special Coordinator, Masi Lomaloma, also joined the RSIPF Community Policing team to talk throughout the week with Festival goers about RAMSI’s drawdown, the staged limited rearmament of the RSIPF and other policing and security issues. Sports activities were also organised to mark RAMSI’s anniversary.

This is the second time that RAMSI has marked its anniversary outside of Honiara. The first was last year in Visale, when RAMSI officials and communities in West Guadalcanal participated in outreach and sporting activities.

You can find photos from the 13th anniversary celebrations in our gallery here.