Friday, 21 September 2007 12:56 PM

Comouflage Comment An Insult: Lomaloma

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare's recent "camouflage comment" has been described as "very insulting".

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare's recent "camouflage comment" has been described as "very insulting".

Mr. Sogavare, in last month's adjournment debate, said he does not see any genuineness in the intervention into the country, accusing Australia of having a 'recolonisation' agenda in Solomon Islands.

The Prime Minister also accused Australia of dragging the other Pacific Island countries to be part of the mission to "camouflage this agenda".

In response to the comment, RAMSI's Assistant Special Coordinator, Mataiasi Lomaloma, in a statement said Pacific Islanders serving in RAMSI had been deeply distressed by Prime Minister's recent comments that they were simply 'camouflage'.

Mr. Lomaloma said for the hundreds of Pacific Islanders serving in the mission, they were proud to be part of RAMSI and could not understand why the Prime Minister would want to dismiss their contributions as 'camouflage' for Australian foreign policy initiatives.

He said although RAMSI is led and mostly funded by Australia, it is one of the most successful initiatives ever undertaken by the Pacific Islands Forum.

Mr. Lomaloma said the success of the mission would not be possible without the contributions of all the member countries.

The most senior Pacific Island representative to the Regional Assistance Mission, a senior Fijian public servant, Mr. Lomaloma said being part of the mission is an honour "... and we are proud to come and serve in RAMSI.

He said Pacific Island nations, like Solomon Islands, are sovereign states who have leaders capable of making their own foreign policy decisions.

"We do not just go along with Australia as the prime minister appears to be suggesting."

"All our nations are signatories to the Bikatawa Agreement, all of our governments made their own independent decision to enter RAMSI. Some of us joined in the beginning other Pacific Island nations have come on aboard at a later date," Mr Lomaloma said.
He said men and women of RAMSI have sacrificed a lot, leaving behind their island homes and family to serve in the mission and "... deserved better than this".

"A number of women serving here in the Solomon Islands actually have very young babies you know, some as young as two years old. These ladies have come forward to serve their nation and to come to the Solomon Islands to genuinely try to assist the Solomon Islands."

"To suggest to these people, these nations who reached out to a neighbour in their time of need, that we are somehow dancing to a foreign government's tune is very demeaning, very insulting; I think we deserved a better comment than what the Hon Prime Minister has said," Mr Lomaloma said.

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