Jun 26, 2017 Last Updated 2:11 PM, Jun 12, 2017

RAMSI came at the invitation of the Solomon Islands Government under laws passed unanimously by the Solomon Islands National Parliament. The mission has over the past decade had its fair share of challenges and critics. But in partnership with the government and people of Solomon Islands, it has also achieved much of which we can all be very proud. These successes can be attributed to several factors but high on the list is the realisation by the people, communities and all levels of leadership that their beloved Hapi Isles needed help. According to the People’s Survey, support for RAMSI never fell below 85 percent of Solomon Islands’ population. The regional nature of RAMSI, with its endorsement by the Pacific Islands Forum under the Biketawa Declaration of 2000, was also a big part of the mission’s long lasting success. With people from every Pacific Islands Forum country included in the RAMSI military, police and civilian programmes, the barriers that could be caused by different people and cultures were minimised. The willingness by the people of Solomon Islands to accept people from other Pacific islands countries into their communities made a great difference to the success of RAMSI. Solomon Islands is now a different place from the nation that RAMSI found on arrival in the early hours of 24 July 2003. Law and order has been re-established in the communities. The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) has been rebuilt and is gradually regaining the confidence, trust and respect it once had from the community. Solomon Islands now has functioning government systems and the economy continues to grow every year.

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The Solomon Islands is now leading the region in mainstreaming gender as an issue that needs to be addressed urgently within the public sector as JOHNSON HONIMAE reports

I n a game-changing decision, the Solomon Islands Public Service Commission recently nominated gender as one of the key cross cutting issues to be used to assess the performance of all heads of government departments. Chair of the Solomon Islands Public Service Commission, Eliam Tangirogo who is leading the reform from within, says it is the first time that gender mainstreaming has been included as one of the principal accountabilities in the Permanent Secretary Performance Agreements. “This is a very positive step,” he says. “The Gender Equality and Women’s Development Policy is an approved government national policy and so it’s only logical and in the national interest that we consider this as an opportunity to further the progress of our women. “We now have data on women in the country, but we need to have a plan of action so that we can see where we’re going and where we can improve. He says by including gender mainstreaming in the performance agreements, the commission is making sure that something gets done about implementing the commitments of the government—both nationally and internationally. “We can’t just depend on the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs to do the work. We must all take leadership and responsibility for it,” said Tangirogo. “I have attended several public service conferences in the region and other public services regularly report on their achievements in gender mainstreaming and are very proud of their achievements. But now Solomon Islands Public Service should also be able to report on progress and achievement in advancing gender issues in its public sector.”

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PNGDF completes RAMSI duties

The Papua New Guinea Defence Force has completed a 10-year stint under the military component of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands. JOHNSON HONIMAE reports on the farewell of the PNGDF.

After deploying 600 personnel since mid- 2003 to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, the final PNG Defence Force contingent was farewelled at a ceremonial parade at the RAMSI Headquarters in Honiara on 1 April. “After 10 years of continuous deployment, I would like to say a 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,” said Wayne Higgins, RAMSI’s Acting Special Coordinator, during the farewell parade. Speaking on behalf of the PNG Defence Forces, Joint Force Commander, Colonel Gilbert Toropo who travelled from Port Moresby for the ceremony, said apart from its domestic duties, PNGDF “has maintained RAMSI as a priority deployment among its international and regional obligations. We have always strived to provide our best possible officers and servicemen and women for RAMSI duties.”

Colonel Toropo said: “PNG believes RAMSI has achieved its mandate and PNG is happy to be part of the troop contributing nations to assist in restoring normalcy to Honiara and the rest of Solomon Islands.”

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The outstanding service of the Clerk to Solomon Islands’ National Parliament, Taeasi Sanga, has been recognised with the RAMSI Special Coordinator’s Award for Women. Johnson Honimae profiles the inspiring story of this quiet achiever.

Through lengthy budget debates, heated motions of no confidences even riots, for more than a decade, Taeasi Sanga has quietly made sure that Solomon Islands’ National Parliament could go about its business; never thinking of herself as anything other than a servant of the people. Now this humble woman has been recognised not only for her commitment and dedication to the job at hand but for her quiet leadership of the efforts to reform and strengthen her country’s supreme law-making body.

On March 7 at the annual RAMSI’s Women’s Breakfast, Mrs Sanga was presented with the 2013 Special Coordinator’s Award for Women. Echoing what many in the Solomon Islands already thought, RAMSI Special Coordinator, Nicholas Coppel said Mrs Sanga in her role as Clerk to the National Parliament was an example not only of a highly effective administrator but a person of exemplarity, tenacity and dedication.

“Persevering during the hardest of times during the tensions when funding had all but dried up and parliament became a target for militant activity, she has, in the past decade, also proved to be a quiet but determined agent for change, keen to strengthen and develop the institution she has served for most of her professional life,” Mr Coppel said. Born in her village in East Malaita, with the assistance of traditional midwives, Mrs Sanga travelled at the age of three to live in the wilds of Papua New Guinea with her missionary parents.

After completing her training in New Zealand, she returned to the Solomons where despite her humble beginnings, Mrs Sanga rose by the time of Independence in 1978, to become personal secretary to Solomon Islands’ first Prime Minister, Sir Peter Kenilorea. She joined the staff of the National Parliament in 1979 as a Hansard reporter.

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As RAMSI prepares to downsize, Solomon Islanders are taking responsibility for the welfare of their communities as JOHNSON HONIMAE found out during a series of community outreach meetings recently.

Communities in the multi-million dollar Gold Ridge Mine area of East Guadalcanal were among some of the worst affected by the social unrest that led to the deployment of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) 10 years ago this July. Although the mine has been back in operation for several years, the communities are now having to grapple with the changes coming to RAMSI. The Solomon Islands Government and RAMSI are together to ensure ordinary Solomon Islanders understand what is happening as RAMSI transitions. Representatives of the Government, Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) and RAMSI are visiting communities, schools and provinces to explain what the new smaller, police-focused mission will look like. At a recent series of meetings in villages around Gold Ridge, communities displayed a strong desire to build on the gains facilitated by RAMSI’s presence in the country over the past 10 years. The transition of RAMSI should actually be seen as an opportunity for Solomon Islanders to take full responsibility for the leadership of their country according to the Solomon Islands Government Assistant Secretary responsible for RAMSI, Derek Manu’ari.

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