This week marks 20 years of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) and the island is reminded of the service of the eight police officers from Niue who served with their colleagues from fifteen other Pacific Island Forum countries.
Niue Police Officers who served with RAMSI included former Chief of Police Tony Edwards, Greg Harding, Justin Mokoia, Sisilia Puleheloto, , Sergeant Albert Tasamia, Narita Viliamu-Tahega, Trina Kaiuha and Stewart Siakifilo.
The Australia and New Zealand led regional peace-keeping mission included fifteen countries contributing personnel to the Mission in partnership with Solomon Islands: Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
Today Greg Harding, Trina Kaiuha and Tony Edwards reflected on their time with RAMSI.
Greg Harding told BCN News that he and then Sergeant Tony Edwards were the first two Police officers from Niue to join RAMSI in 2006. They spend several weeks in pre-deployment training in Australia before moving to work in the Solomon Islands for several months.
Harding served several weeks working in Honiara before volunteering to work in the outer province of Malaita. He spoke about the honour of representing Niue in what is only the second time Niue had joined a conflict, leaving behind the peace and security of home for the uncertainty of a country under civil unrest, trying to restore the rule of law in the Solomon Islands.
Harding was emotional reflecting on the loss of their fellow constable Sisilia Puleheloto who was serving with RAMSI when during her break was 74 passengers perished in the sinking of the MV Princess Ashika in Tonga in August 2009.
For Tony Edwards, he reflected on the success of RAMSI in bringing together Pacific countries to help restore peace and security in the Solomon Islands.
“On June 30th, 2017, RAMSI cease to function as regional mission to Solomon Islands. Lest we forget, the nation was a failed or well into becoming a failed state prior to the intervention in June 2003. It was in a state of anarchy with no proper rule of law, largely dysfunctional and corrupted institutions of government, a collapsed economy, and people living in fear and insecurity. If you compare the situation then to now, then we can all agree without a shred of doubt that RAMSI has been a great success”, said Edwards.
Tony Edwards served two tours to the Solomon Islands, first in 2006 and returned in 2009 where he was the Coordinator for Close Protection Unit, responsible for the security detail and protection of then Prime Minister and current PM of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare.
For Constable Trina Kaiuha who served for 12 months with RAMSI from 2014, this was an opportunity to expand her experience in policing and meet fellow law enforcement officers from the region and the Solomon Islands.
Constable Kaiuha started with several weeks of pre-deployment training in Australia before moving to the Solomons where she started as the Personnel Security Check access at their headquarters.
Trina Kaiuha spend six months with the Solomon Islands Police Criminal Investigation Division where she learned a great deal investigating violent crimes including sexual violence and drugs and alcohol offences.
She told BCN News that she hopes the contribution of RAMSI in restoring peace and security to the Solomon Islands will continue and that peace will prevail.
If there is another peace-keeping mission Constable Trina Kaiuha said that she will volunteer again.
In a statement to BCN News Australia High Commissioner H.E Louise Ellerton said “The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), also known as Operation Helpem Fren, stands as a testament to Pacific collaboration. The Pacific family has a long and enduring history of cooperation. We have proven our power and capability when we work together on our shared challenges”.
High Commissioner Ellerton acknowledged the contribution made by Niue and the Police officers who served.
“All members of the Pacific Islands Forum, big and small, came together and successfully restored peace and security in Solomon Islands. I want to acknowledge Niue’s contribution to RAMSI and thank the individuals who served in Solomon Islands.”
The Niue Police department sent five men and three female personnel who served in the Solomon Islands starting in 2006 under the Premier Young Vivian government and in the late Sir Toke Talagi governments from 2008 to 2017.
After fourteen years in the Solomon Islands, RAMSI wrapped up the mission in June 2017.