Wednesday, 12 December 2012 9:47 AM

Guadalcanal Premier Voices Concerns

The Premier of Solomons Islands' Guadalcanal Province says he is still concerned about possible militant activity, despite positive comments from the head of the Regional Assistance Mission to his country.

The Special Coordinator of the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), Nicholas Coppel, has said that from the middle of next year, troops will not be needed as part of the Mission.

"At some point in the second half of 2013, RAMSI will become a policing-only mission," he said.

"While the possibility of civil disorder in Solomon Islands cannot be ruled out, we can be more confident that militancy is much less likely, as there's no evidence of it, let alone an appetite for it."

However, Guadalcanal's Premier disagrees. "There's likelihood that militant activity would come back again if RAMSI left," Anthony Veke said.

He says issues like land and compensation - that stirred up the ethnic war between the people of Guadalcanal and Malaita - have not been fully resolved.

"There's a feeling of insecurity amongst the youths and people of Guadalcanal and these are the sort of things that initiate militancy activity."

But Veke says it is up to the Solomon Islands Government, and not RAMSI, to resolve these issues.

Coppel said he believes Solomon Islands will soon be ready to manage its own security affairs, though the country's police force still needs a little outside help.

"There's still more work to be done with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, in terms of building up their capability and still a need to have some regional police there to assist [them], should the need arise."

As RAMSI troops leave the Solomon Islands, assistance to the police force will continue for at least four years.

Coppel says around 150 police officers will remain in a supporting role.

Source: Press Release, Pacific News Agency