I visited Solomon Islands on Anzac Day, Wednesday 25 April and Thursday 26 April.
I was accompanied by the Secretary of the Department of Defence Mr Duncan Lewis.
On the afternoon of Anzac Day, I had the honour of meeting with the 84 Australian soldiers who are deployed in support of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).
Since 2003, the Australian-led RAMSI has assisted the Solomon Islands Government in the maintenance of security, law and justice, economic governance and improving the machinery of government.
The military component of RAMSI is comprised of personnel from four troop contributing nations—Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Tonga, with a capability to respond to incidents beyond the capabilities of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force and RAMSI's multi-national Participating Police Force.
I thanked the Australian soldiers for their contribution to the continuing security of Solomon Islands. The Solomon Islands was of strategic importance during the Second World War. The Guadalcanal Campaign in particular was a significant victory for the Allies.
The men and women serving our nation in Solomon Islands today are doing so in the finest tradition of those brave Australians who served and sacrificed in Solomon Islands 70 years ago.
I met Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo and Minister for Police, National Security and Correctional Services David Tome. I assured them of Australia’s commitment to the development and security of Solomon Islands.
We discussed Australia’s Defence Cooperation Program (DCP) with Solomon Islands. Through the DCP, Australia supports the Pacific Patrol Boat Program and the work of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) Explosive Ordnance Disposal team. We agreed to explore options to enhance the DCP. Future activities under the DCP could include Australian Defence Force ship visits or exercises.
We also discussed the lead role of the Solomon Islands Government in supporting gradual transition of RAMSI. Noting RAMSI’s success to date and the improving security situation, we agreed to start the consultation process on transitioning out of Solomon Islands the military component of RAMSI. The drawdown process will involve further consultation with Solomon Islands, New Zealandand the Pacific Islands Forum. I have already spoken to New Zealand Minister of Defence Dr Jonathan Coleman who supports this process.
Beyond the military transition, Australia will continue to support RAMSI, including important ongoing support for the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force and RAMSI's multi-national Participating Police Force.
Mr Smith’s Office: Sacha Fenton (02) 6277 7800 or 0467 784 528
Department of Defence: (02) 6127 1999