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New Solomons PM vague on foreign policy

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11 October 2010 11:36

Charles Prestidge-King is a freelance journalist based in Honiara. This is part two of a post on a just-released policy statement by Solomon Island Prime Minister Danny Philip. Part one here.

In foreign policy, Danny Philip's 'Look North' mantra, with overtones of pursuing links in Asia, still holds, but there's no new information in the National Coalition for Reform and Advancement (NCRA) Government Policy Statement. At a time when Australia's relationships in Asia are front of mind,  Danny Philip's NCRA Government has only said that 'Look North will be encouraged as part of the government's broader foreign policy outlook'.

Opening new overseas missions is mentioned as a possibility, to boost trade and investment, but Solomon Islands is also lobbying to 're-create our image in the international scene'. Image is of particular concern to Danny Philip's Government.

On the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission, the NCRA Government is calling for a refinement of priorities and a gradual drawdown in adviser numbers. In particular, the framework outlines that 'RAMSI should concentrate on rebuilding the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force and the implementation of the capability program including training, logistics, and police housing in Honiara, other urban centres and the rural areas.'

This pushes RAMSI's role as police support. That's part of what the Mission does, but RAMSI does a great deal more than that, including providing assistance to the bulk of ministries in the Solomon Islands Government.

More controversially, the report also mentions the possibility of re-arming two small units within the police. Re-arming the police was mooted by Manasseh Sogavare's Government, but there are good reasons for the police not to carry weapons, as there is still distrust of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force in some sections of the community, according to the 2009 RAMSI People's Survey:

...participants were not asked specifically to comment on whether the RSIPF treats the community with respect. However, almost all volunteered negative comments about favouritism and lack of fairness.

Last week, Prime Minister Philip spoke at a Chamber of Commerce event, where he said he 'liked being new. It signals the beginning of a new dawn, a new direction and a new approach.' Maybe, but this new approach hasn't yet translated into good new ideas for the people of Solomon Islands.

Photo courtesy of RAMSI.

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