Thursday, 4 October 2007 11:16 AM

Downer: 'Think of the Ordinary People'

Solomon Islands Government needs to think about the interests of the ordinary people of the Solomons, not just about their own personal interests.

Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. Alexander Downer, MP, made the comment in response to his Solomon Islands counterpart, Hon. Patteson Oti's "horrific spray" towards the regional assistance, RAMSI, and its leadership in the UN General Assembly.

Speaking at the 62nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York a couple of nights ago, Mr. Oti said Australian-led peacekeepers were engaged in a "continuing occupation" of his country.

He told the meeting that the Solomons government wanted to see more UN involvement in the peacekeeping operation and was seeking to change the rules under which the mission operated.

In an interview with ABC News Radio, Mr. Downer said the comments by Mr. Oti "doesn't really surprise me" as a coalition of politicians led by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare are "always there attacking Australia and attacking RAMSI."

"It doesn't really surprise me because you've got a coalition of politicians led by Mr Sogavare and including Patteson Oti, the Foreign Minister, and of course the so-called Attorney General, Mr Moti, who want to destroy RAMSI," he said.

"...what stands between RAMSI and its destruction, to tell you the truth, is the very strong public support there is in Solomon Islands for the continuation of RAMSI so we're kind of used to this," Mr. Downer said.

He said the worrying issue is "the interests of the ordinary people of the Solomon Islands, frankly and if RAMSI were to fail, then I think the consequences for the ordinary people of the Solomons would be dire and that's why they don't want it to fail and I don't want it to fail."

The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), made up of Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Islands personnel, arrived in 2003 to restore law and order and good governance after years of ethnic unrest.

Relations between Canberra and the Solomons went sour following Sogavare's appointment of Moti, wanted in Australia on child sex charges, as Solomon Islands' attorney-general.