Wednesday, 5 September 2007 10:40 AM

Sogavare Blames RAMSI for Uncollected Arms

The Solomon Islands Prime Minister has replied to statements made by the Special Coordinator of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands over the issue of uncollected arms.

Mr Sogavare, in a press statement, expressed his deep concern over the head of the Australian-led mission's rejection to statements he made earlier in parliament on uncollected weapons. Special Coordinator of RAMSI, Tim George, last week issued a media statement denying having ever said that all weapons had been recovered from the community.

Mr Sogavare, in a letter responding to the statements made by Mr George, reminded the Special Coordinator that he and his former Deputy Special Coordinator, Paul Ash had told him (Prime Minister) in their meeting in January this year that they were unaware of the existence of any outstanding weapons.

Mr Sogavare said that it is a concern that firearms are still at large within the communities of Solomon Islands, after the MP for North East Guadalcanal highlighted the issue in Parliament. Sogavare said that the government would require a full explanation from RAMSI regarding the status of the mission's disarmament programme.

Sogavare also said that the Special Coordinator should take note of the fact that the present force (SIPF) did not have the capacity to carry out disarmament operations and thus, it was the sole responsibility of RAMSI with the support of SIPF, to ensure all outstanding weapons were collected.

The Prime Minister also directed Mr George in the letter to provide him with a full report on the disarmament programme carried out since the arrival of RAMSI in 2003.
He wanted the report to include a list of all the weapons collected, including the licensed holders who surrendered their weapons and an inventory from police records of the firearms in the police armory prior to the raid of the weapons storage in June 2000.

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