Friday, 26 October 2007 8:52 AM

Review will Strengthen Gov't - RAMSI Partnership: Oti

The Government's intention to review the Facilitation of International Assistance Act (FIAA) is important to strengthen the partnership between the government and the regional mission.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Patterson Oti, made the clarification yesterday to local reporters following recent media reports claiming the government wants to expel RAMSI from the country.

Mr. Oti maintains that the government's plan to review the act is aimed at improving relations between the two parties and that requires correcting some existing discrepancies surrounding FIAA

"It should be noted that the rationale of the review is not to get rid of RAMSI, but rather to see how RAMSI can better support the Government of Solomon Islands to address the root causes of the ethnic tension and drive the national development agenda forward."

The Minister noted that some privileges currently enjoyed by the mission's members under the FIAA are equal to the diplomatic privileges given to foreign diplomats which falls within the bounds of the Solomons laws.

"This is a clear example of where we have two laws at work in this country, one for Solomon Islanders and the other for RAMSI," Mr Oti said. He noted that some members of the mission have used that privilege to breach Solomon Islands national laws.

"We have incidents where some members of the mission breached our immigration laws when they brought in their same sex partners under the FIAA permission.

"Our immigration laws only recognized a legal wife or husband to reside or work in the country," Mr Oti explained. He said a mission that was supposed to restore law and order should maintain and follow the law.

"This is an example of where we need to correct discrepancies existing in the FIAA," he said. "This is a genuine concern and people who fail to understand our concerns needs to correct their ill-informed judgments before misrepresenting our intentions in the media."

The Minister said the process will involve a joint workshop for all Members of Parliament, and an "extensive, nation-wide program through appropriate avenues" will be arranged so people of Solomon Islands will be fully informed on the review agenda.

Mr Oti will engage in comprehensive consultations with regional countries, informing them of what the people and Government of Solomon Islands have decided on, as to the areas that needed review.

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