Wednesday, 24 October 2007 10:16 AM

Changes to Facilitation Act May Destroy RAMSI: Downer

Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, stated in an interview with Radio Australia that the Solomon Islands government could destroy RAMSI if it tampers with the Facilitation Act.

In the last sitting of Parliament, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has said that his government would go ahead with a review of the Facilitation of International Assistance Act governing the operations of the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

RAMSI members' legal immunities are one of the areas highlighted by the government that may need to be re-looked at.

Downer told Radio Australia that if the act was substantially changed to remove legal immunities granted to mission members then the mission would be destroyed.

"That is a message that Prime Minister Sogavare needs to understand and in particular his AG Mr Moti, who probably wants to destroy RAMSI, needs to understand."

"If the Solomons does destroy RAMSI, one of the ways they could do it would be to remove those immunities, it could be catastrophic."

"That's not just Australia's view by the way, that's the view of the Pacific Islands Forum generally," Downer said.

Manasseh Sogavare had earlier boycotted the recent Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tonga, in protest of the Forum review team's report.

The Forum review report endorsed RAMSI's operations and recommended the Act did not need amending. Despite Sogavare's non attendance, Pacific leaders endorsed the report.