Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 07:44 | SYDNEY
Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 07:44 | SYDNEY

The shots heard around the Solomons (part 3)

27 August 2010 10:17

Charles Prestidge-King is a former editor of East Asia Forum. He has been in Honiara during the elections and has contributed to the Sydney Morning Herald. (Part one; part two.)

Politically, RAMSI is probably more worried about the shape of the new government after Wednesday's Prime Ministerial election than about the Titinge shooting. Veteran MP Danny Philip secured the top job after weeks of lobbying and horse-trading.

During his first speech as Prime Minister, he was conciliatory towards RAMSI and described himself as a leader that RAMSI can work with. But he also expressed some reservations: 'We all know that there need to be changes, so RAMSI's mandate can be more purposeful and relevant in light of the challenges facing Solomon Islands.' Pretty tame stuff, but you wouldn't have heard that from former PM, Dr Derek Sikua.

Danny Philip, from Solomon Islands' Western Province, was elected by 26 MPs, and had support from Jimmy 'Rasta' Lusibaea, an ex-militant leader turned MP, and a number of local businessmen with colourful histories. He's also linked to a number of people who have spoken against RAMSI. Gordon Darcy Lilo, a likely candidate for Deputy PM, said that the death at Titinge should not be 'brushed aside', and implied that the traditional reconciliation ceremony undertaken by RAMSI and the Solomon Islands Police Force was illegitimate.

The new Government's agenda might also work against RAMSI. At a media forum, the Prime Minister-elect neatly ducked a question posed by local media about corruption, and has spoken of promoting 'constitutional reform', as well as giving resource-owners their due. Solomon Islanders have heard all this before. He didn't talk at all about promoting the role of women or public sector reform, two key goals for RAMSI. We'll find out his specific focus next month, when Philip has promised to produce a policy framework.

The Prime Minister-elect also said on Wednesday that he won't be 'kicking RAMSI out'. If RAMSI were to leave, many of the problems facing Solomon Islands would become significantly worse. The courts would be less effective, the police less trusted. Large scale events, such as this month's elections, would be much harder to execute successfully. Property prices in Honiara might decrease as RAMSI civilian advisers leave, but the country, and individual Solomon Islanders, would be much the poorer.

RAMSI has taken a minor beating in the public eye for the Titinge incident. A new Government is going to pose some challenges, though the Prime Minister has promised business as usual when it comes to foreign policy, and we can expect the Australian Government, whatever its shape, to maintain its commitment to the Mission. We can expect the same from diplomatic circles. No matter what happens, nobody sees RAMSI leaving any time soon.

Photo courtesy of RAMSI.