RAMSI's Military Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Ian Upjohn, today strongly rejected claims that Tongan soldiers accused of assaulting youth in North Malaita had been drinking at the time.

Two separate incidents involving Tongan soldiers are under investigation, Lieutenant Colonel Upjohn said. "It is important not to confuse these incidents," Colonel Upjohn said. "They occurred on different days in different locations and involved different groups of soldiers," he said

"Investigations to date have confirmed that the first incident which followed the throwing of large rocks and an attempted intrusion into the soldiers' camp took place on 24 October at Manakwai Village."

"Whatever happened had happened in the normal course of duty, and I strongly reject any suggestion that the soldiers were drinking either alcohol or kwaso," Lieutenant Colonel Upjohn said. "The only kwaso involved was some that the soldiers seized from a group of youths and then tipped out on the ground," he said.

A second incident which took place four days later on 28 October at Malu'u is the subject of an internal investigation and disciplinary action by the Tongan Defence Service.

This incident involved a different section of soldiers who were stationed at Malu'u, not Manakwai village. "These soldiers were socialising with local people, were not in uniform and were not carrying firearms at the time," Lieutenant Colonel Upjohn.

"As soon as their commander became aware of the incident, the soldiers were ordered to return to barracks and remained separated from their firearms overnight."