Monday, 15 October 2007 8:54 AM

Sogavare Explains Absence from Forum Meet

Manasseh Sogavare says his government decided not to attend the Forum Leaders meeting in Tonga because discrepancies emerging from the Forum Review of RAMSI needs to be sorted out first.

The Prime Minister raised these sentiments to this year's Forum Chairman and Prime Minister of Tonga, Dr Feleti Sevele. Mr Sogavare said that Solomon Islands does not want the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) issue to over shadow and deprive the full attention of leaders from other equally important matters of the Forum.

The Prime Minister also stated that his government is insulted by Canberra's ongoing pressure on Forum member countries to oppose Solomon Islands position and intention to review the Facilitation of International Assistance Act 2003 (FIAA) that allows RAMSI into the country.

"We categorically condemn as totally misleading and grossly insulting the ongoing media campaign by Canberra and other foreign agents that Solomons Government is out to destroy RAMSI in defiance of the claim that the majority of Solomon Islanders support their continual presence in the country."

"This is a non-issue as far as the people and government of Solomon Islands are concerned and we are quite surprised that Canberra continues to make an issue out of it," Mr. Sogavare said.

The Prime Minister challenged the Forum to independently take a clear position in its understanding of the partnership between the democratic government of Solomon Islands and the Australian led Regional Assistance Mission.

However, the Prime Minister maintains that the Solomon Islands Government does not need the endorsement of the Forum to pursue the review of RAMSI because the FIAA 2003 empowers Solomon Islands Parliament to do that.

"This is where our commitment and willingness to work with the Forum is taken for granted and we feel insulted," the Prime Minister said.