Saturday, October 21, 2006

Time to come home

For the past six months, New Zealand soldiers and police have been in the Solomon Islands as part of RAMSI - the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands. Their mission has been primarily humanitarian - to serve as a neutral guarantor of law and order. Now however that neutrality is under threat. Two weeks ago, the Australian government attempted to extradite Solomon Islands Attorney-General Julian Moti from Papua New Guinea to face child sex charges. He was subsequently spirited out of the country back to the Solomons, where he was promptly arrested. The Solomons government has refused to extradite him, so today Australian soldiers operating as part of RAMSI kicked in the Prime Minister's door to search for evidence of collusion in Moti's escape. In doing so, they have shattered RAMSI's neutrality, and made it crystal clear to everyone that RAMSI is serving Australia's interests and enforcing Australian power in a foreign country rather than being a neutral police force.

That is not something we should be a part of. It is one thing to help out a friend in need at their invitation. It is quite another to help Australia in an exercise in colonial enforcement. I said when we first became involved in this operation that when RAMSI ceased to be neutral, and started favouring one faction over one another, then it would be time to come home. Thanks to Australia, that time has now arrived.


I fail to see how this in any way effects RAMSI's neutrality. If apprehending an accused child-sex offender is merely "serving Australia's interests' then I sort of think Australia's interest here might be the side to take. And if this is "colonialism" then that just shows how that term has been devalued.

You also make the error of making our particpation in the Solomon Islands conditional on what the Australians are doing. Surely that is a judgement NZ should make for ourselves in light of what is best for the Soloman Islands.

Australia and NZ have policed as well as troops there. The police are there to help create law and order, they have a duty to prevent goverment officials from aiding and abetting suspected criminals.

But it seems easier to just blame Australia.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/21/2006 09:36:00 AM

Neil: it comes down to a question of whose law and interests they are enforcing - Australian or the Solomons'? Moti hasn't committed a crime in the Solomons, except perhaps for entering illegally (and remember, he's a) a citizen, and b) it seems to have been permitted by the government). While morally reprehensible, its certainly not a crime for the government to refuse to extradite him to face trial in Australia, or to issue an order allowing him entry, or arrange for him to be smuggled out of PNG (that's a breach of PNG law - but not the Solomons). Instead, it looks like the Australians are just swinging their dick around.

This has completely poisoned the already tense relationship between the Solomon Islands government and RAMSI. They've started by sacking the (Australian-appointed) chief of police, and they're likely to sack other Australian-appointed officials as well. Bluntly, they want to run their own country, and Australia is seen to be hostile to this.

As for our role, if RAMSI is no longer seen as neutral, then I do not see how we can possibly continue. We're there to help people in the Solomons, not serve as an instrument of factional infighting (and just to make it explicit, the Australian government are now clearly a faction). If the Australians stay and use RAMSI in this fashion, then we have to go.

(The other option is that if the Solomons government asks Australia to leave, we could offer to increase our support and continue the job in a fair and neutral manner. I wouldn't really have a problem with this - but at the moment, given Australia's clear abuse of its mandate, I don't think we should be a part of it).

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 10/21/2006 12:11:00 PM

Idiot, the police are enforcing Solomon Is law - they executed a search warrant on Manasseh Sogavare's office as this was part of the investigaition into Minister Peter Shanel who is charged with perverting the course of justice in relation to Moti. Sogavar is also Moti's "friend".

Exactly how is this colonialism? How is this becoming an "an instrument of factional infighting"?

Personally I don't have a problem with the police acting to stop such corrupt practice by polticians as defending child sex offenders.

The RAMSI has a role - to re-estblish law and order and good governance, if challanging corrupt politicians and apprenhending child sex offenders is not part of thatmandate then I don't know what is. They are indeed on the side of the people of the Solomon Is, not the politicians'.

You can throw around red herrings like they "want to run their own country" if you want (who'se saying that they shouldn't?) , but this in the case this amounts to just a cover for unsavoury political practices.

You appear to be forgeting your princples for the opportunity of taking a cheap swipe at Australia.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/21/2006 01:34:00 PM

Neil: Unfortunately, Shanel's "perversion of the course of justice" seems to have been lying to the (Australian) Police Commissioner in casual conversation by initially denying the existence of a passport exemption order allowing Moti to enter the country (an order which it was entirely in his power to grant, BTW). That's setting the bar rather low, neh?

I agree that the government is corrupt and morally reprehensible for harbouring Moti - but these are not problems solved by having the police make up the law as they go along, or attempt to effectively enforce Australian law in the Solomons. Moti may be a child abuser, but - and this is important - he doesn't seem to have committed any offence in the Solomons. Unfortunately, you seem to be blinded by the fact that he is a Bad Person, and unable to look past this to the very real legal (and ethical) problems involved with what is going on - exactly the same mistake you made over Iraq.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 10/24/2006 12:57:00 PM