The weeklong RAMSI Farewell Celebrations in the capital concluded late yesterday with a grand finale at the Lawson Tama Stadium at which the Heads of the delegations from the Participating countries and Special Coordinators right from 2003 to 2017 received tokens of appreciation by the Solomon Islands Government for their contributions towards the success of the 14-year intervention.
The crowd that turned out at the event was the biggest ever since Honiara hosted the 11th Festival of Pacific Arts in 2012.
Prime Minister Sogavare presented plaques of appreciation to the Australian Governor General, His Excellency Peter Cosgrove, Governor General of Tuvalu, His Excellency Iacoba Taeia Italeli, President of the Federated States of Micronesia, His Excellency Peter Christian, President of Kiribati, His Excellency Taneti Maamau, President of Nauru, His Excellency Baron Divavesi Waqa, Prime Minister of Samoa, Hon Tuilaepa Sailele Malilegaoi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Police of New Zealand, Deputy Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Hon Joe Natuman, Vice-President and Minister of Palau, His Excellency Raynold Oilouch, Special Envoy of Papua New Guinea, Her Excellency Lucy Bogari Iso, Former President of Fiji, Ratu Epeli Nailitikau, Commissioner of Police of Cook Islands, Mr Taneti Maamau, Commissioner of Police of Niue, Mr Tonyata Edwards and Commissioner of Police of Tonga, Mr Stephen John Caldwell.
The Governor General, His Excellency Sir Frank Ofagioro Kabui presented Cross of Solomon Awards to RAMSI Special Coordinators right from 2004 to 2017- Mr James Bartley, Mr Tim George, Ms Laura Wilson on behalf of her father Mr Graeme Wilson (now deceased), Mr Nicholas Coppel, Ms Justine Braithwaite and Mr Quinton Devlin. He presented Solomon Islands Meritorious Medals to the first RAMSI Special Coordinator, Mr Nick Warner and the longest serving Assistant Special Coordinator, Mr Masi Lomaloma who served since 2005.
In his speech at the occasion, Prime Minister Sogavare reiterated the acknowledgement of the Government and People of Solomon Islandsthe Governments and People of Australia and New Zealand for leading and footing the cost of the 14-year intervention and all 15 RAMSI participating countries for the deployment of their men and women to serve under RAMSI.
He also reiterated acknowledgement on behalf of the Government and People of Solomon Islands to the men and women who served under RAMSI for their personal sacrifices and commitment towards the carrying out their duties and also the Pacific Islands Forum for their oversight role over the mission.
“Of course, the Governments of the 15 Member Nations of the Pacific Islands Forum. The Mission would not have been possible without the willingness of the member countries to be part of it. These Governments are represented here this evening by the leaders who are present with us during the celebrations.
“We acknowledge the leadership played by Australia and New Zealand in terms of logistics and budgetary support. We are greatly indebted. Your willingness to respond to our call for help in the manner in which you responded changed our perspectives about the position and attitude of Australia and New Zealand in Pacific regionalism.
“For the small Island states, I can understand the pressure it has on your human and budgetary resources. But you decided to put that concern aside for the sake of helping us. We thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts. This is a gesture we will not forget.
“I must also thank the spouses and families of members of the Visiting Contingent who had to live day by day with the concern of the safety of their loved ones who answered the call of duty to come over to our shores to rescue us from the chaos of our own making.
“In this regard, I acknowledge the ultimate sacrifice made by the six true sons of the Pacific who lost their lives in the course of duty serving our people.
Words cannot express how thankful we are to these heroes and we are deeply sorry and acknowledge with deep humility that our own actions that allowed our country to go down the path of anarchy and lawlessness, was the reason why they came to our shores and lost their lives. We ask for your forgiveness and we pray that God will continue to comfort their families.
“I would also like to take this opportunity on behalf of our people to acknowledge the coordinating role played by the Forum Secretariat in the work of the Mission. The Forum’s involvement started with the adoption of the Biketawa Declaration, which paved the way for the establishment of the Mission to intervene into the problems encountered by Solomon Islands under the leadership of the then Secretary General, the Late Greg Urwin. This strong leadership continues to be manifested by Dame Meg Taylor. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
The Prime Minister said there is nothing that Solomon Islands could do to repay the Pacific Islands Forum and its 15 member countries who participated in RAMSI for the accomplishment of the mission’s mandate.
He said all the country could to reciprocate the act of good will by its regional neighbours is to declare its commitment to ensure it does not go down the path of anarchy and lawlessness again.
Prime Minister Sogavare said Solomon Islands has experienced so much pain and has caused so much pain and personal sacrifice to those who helped through the RAMSI intervention and is committed to work with all its regional neigbours, especially Australia to keep the Pacific a peaceful corner of the world.
“We are committed to take a consultative approach to formulating key security policies that affect peace and harmony in the region.”
The Prime Minister also expressed Solomon Islands commitment to work towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and become a useful member of the United Nations.
On that note, he also thanked the United Nations Development Programme for its commitment to partner with Solomon Islands in the country’s peace and nation-building efforts.