RAMSI farewells last PNGDF contingent

The last Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) troops to serve with the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands have been farewelled at a ceremonial parade held at the Mission’s headquarters in Honiara today.

Soldiers from the Australian Defence Force (ADF) who have been serving in the RAMSI Military contingent for the past four months were also farewelled. A replacement ADF contingent and soldiers from the Tongan Defence Service were welcomed at the parade.

The Acting RAMSI Special Coordinator Wayne Higgins told the contingents that their tour of duty occurs at a time when RAMSI is in transition and the military component is scheduled to leave the mission from the middle of the year.

“Under current planning today’s departure also marks the end of the Papua New Guinea Defence’s deployment to Solomon Islands as you are the last PNG troops to serve with RAMSI. Like the New Zealand platoon that left last November, your departure is part of the phased withdrawal of the military contributions to the mission,” said Mr Higgins.

“After ten years of continuous deployment I would like to say special thank you to all the troops from Papua New Guinea who have served with RAMSI over the past decade. Your input has been vital to the success of the mission and a testament to regional cooperation and fellowship.”

Colonel Gilbert Toropo, Joint Force Commander of the PNGDF, who travelled to Honiara for the ceremony said for a small size force, PNG Defence has maintained RAMSI as priority for its regional and international obligations.

“I believe the RAMSI exercise has been of great benefit for our servicemen and women to operate with their counterparts from military forces within the region. The sharing of experiences and friendship developed during RAMSI will no doubt be value in future, such as, regional exercises, or other international obligations in the near future. PNG Defence has benefited a lot from the RAMSI experience,” said Colonel Toropo

To the Solomon Islands Government Colonel Toropo said: “It has been an honour for PNG and in particular, the PNGDF to participate in RAMSI to make a contribution in supporting you to address the country’s law and order situation. We have every confidence that the government and peoples of Solomon Islands will work together for the well-being and prosperity of its people and national development and economic progress of this country’s future.”

Meanwhile the RAMSI mission continues and transition progresses in close consultation with the Solomon Islands Government. As of 30 June RAMSI will become a police-focused mission. The Participating Police Force will continue its capacity building work with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, retaining its regional flavour and including police officers from PNG. RAMSI’s current development programs will transfer across to bilateral and other donors. RAMSI’s military contingent will retain its current strength as a three Platoon Company through to 30 June after which it too will cease operations.