Earlier this month, Solomon Islands and many Pacific Island Nations celebrated the success of RAMSI, the multi-national force that just concluded a 14 year mission to restore order in the Solomons. Vanuatu’s delegate to the ceremony, Deputy Prime Minister Joe Natuman, called for the Pacific Islands Forum to establish a standing force on the RAMSI model. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
“There are a lot of things happening in our world,” Natuman told Radio New Zealand, “and I think together with Australia and New Zealand we should have some kind of arrangements that we can fall back on in times of need.”
The Deputy Prime Minister of Vanuatu referred specifically to disasters and to the problems of unregulated and illegal fishing.
But the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands was created in response to a political crisis, not a natural disaster, and regional politics has changed dramatically since its creation in 2003.
The Pacific Islands Forum approved the intervention proposed by its richest and most powerful member, and while every member nation contributed personnel at some point, RAMSI was run and paid for by Australia, with help from New Zealand. While RAMSI left the Solomons as popular as it was when it arrived, no small achievement, the intervention generated deep resentment among political elites in the South Pacific and helped spawn what’s called the new Pacific Diplomacy. In an open challenge to Australia and New Zealand, for example, Fiji established a rival group called the Pacific Islands Development Forum.
Nevertheless, in a paper published in the East Asia Forum, a former head of RAMSI, James Batley, described Canberra’s current policy as close to an Australian Monroe Doctrine. Now with the Australian National University, Batley wrote: “It is not hard to envision situations in which Australia may again seek to play a direct role in the affairs of a regional state.”