Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI)
On 24 July 2003, six member states of the Pacific Islands Forum – Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa – signed an agreement with the Government of Solomon Islands, to allow the deployment of police and military forces under the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).
Since 2003, RAMSI has passed through a number of phases, involving:
- the initial stabilisation of security (with the arrest of militia leaders and collection and destruction of guns)
- programs to reform the police, prisons and strengthen the machinery of government
- economic reforms to strengthen the Solomon Islands economy.
While there is significant popular support for key elements of the RAMSI intervention, relations deteriorated in 2006-07 between the Sogavare government in Solomon Islands and the Howard government in Australia, as the key donor and military/police force in RAMSI.
The 2007 election of new governments in Honiara and Canberra has improved relations but opened the way for new debate about the role and timelines for RAMSI forces.
RAMSI agreement, Australian Treaty Series  ATS17, signed in Townsvilla Australia, 24 July 2003
“The Assisting countries may deploy a visiting contingent of police forces, armed forces and other personnel to Solomon Islands to assist in the provision of security and safety to persons and property; maintain supplies and services essential to the life of the Solomon Islands community; prevent and suppress violence, intimidation and crime; support and develop Solomon Islands institutions; and generally assist in the maintenance of law and order in Solomon Islands.”
RAMSI’s Mandate, Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands website
“RAMSI is a partnership between the people and the Government of Solomon Islands and 15 contributing countries of the Pacific region. RAMSI is helping the Solomon Islands to lay the foundations for long-term stability, security and prosperity – through support for improved law, justice and security; for more effective, accountable ‘and democratic government; for stronger, broad-based economic growth; and for enhanced service delivery. The overarching goal of RAMSI’s work is for a peaceful, well-governed and prosperous Solomon Islands. This goal will be pursued over the long term through a mutual commitment with the Solomon Islands Government, which supports RAMSl’s mandate to:
- Ensure the safety and security of Solomon Islands
- Repair and reform the machinery of government, improve government accountability and improve the delivery of services in urban and provincial areas
- Improve economic governance and strengthen the government’s financial systems
- Help rebuild the economy and encourage sustainable broad-based growth
- Build strong and peaceful communities
“RAMSI is helping Solomon Islanders to get their nation working and growing again. That will take years of hard work. Nothing will change unless Solomon Islanders want change and are prepared to work hard in support of a common cause. Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and other Pacific islands nations contribute police and military personnel to RAMSI. Australia’s contribution to RAMSI includes provision of expertise in coordinating assistance from the various nations and agencies involved.”
Enhanced Pacific engagement, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, Media release, 12 May 2009
“The Government will also provide $777.3 million over four years (including $29.0 million for DFAT) for continuation of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), reflecting Australia’s commitment to supporting peace and stability in Solomon Islands.”
Solomon Islands country briefing paper, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, May 2009.
“In April 2003, Prime Minister Kemakeza wrote to the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, requesting Australian assistance. Following consultations between the governments of Solomon Islands, Australia and New Zealand, a package of strengthened assistance to support the Solomon Islands Government was proposed and unanimously endorsed by a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Pacific Islands Forum. The package was debated and unanimously endorsed by the Solomon Islands Parliament, commended by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and supported by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group and Secretary-General McKinnon.
“Following the formal request for assistance from the Solomon Islands Government, Australian and Pacific Islands police, military and civilian personnel arrived in Solomon Islands on 24 July 2003 as part of the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).
“RAMSI is designed as a comprehensive package of assistance. The first priority of the Mission has been to restore law and order. RAMSI police officers are in Solomon Islands supporting the Solomon Islands Police Force (SIPF) and to date the following countries have provided police personnel: Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tonga, Kiribati, Cook Islands, Nauru, Niue, PNG, Tuvalu, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and Marshall Islands. Due to the large number of weapons that were present within the community prior to RAMSI’s arrival, RAMSI also includes a military component drawn from the armed forces of Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Tonga, which provides force protection for the RAMSI police contingent. The military component also provided initial logistical support for the operation.
“Since RAMSI’s deployment approximately 3,600 firearms have been surrendered or confiscated. RAMSI police now have a presence throughout each of the country’s nine provinces. RAMSI police and the SIPF have made numerous arrests, including many RSIP officers on serious charges. Leading ex-militants from both sides of the original conflict have been arrested and charged with serious offences including Harold Keke, Moses Su’u, Andrew Te’e, Jimmy ‘Rasta’ Lusibea and Stanley ‘Satan’ Kaoni.”
RAMSI Celebrates Five Years Of Partnership With Solomon Islands, RAMSI media release, 10 September, 2008
“RAMSI Special Coordinator Tim George said it was an honour to be co-host with Solomon Islands first Prime Minister and current Parliamentary Speaker, Sir Peter Kenilorea, at an event to mark five years of Regional Assistance Mission’s partnership with Solomon Islands.”
Australian Federal Police Overseas Operations, Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) Audit report No.53, 2006-07 Performance Audit
“In 2003 the Government responded to a request for assistance from Solomon Islands Government to restore law and order in Solomon Islands. The AFP’s earlier peace monitoring role there was replaced by a full civilian policing function under the umbrella of RAMSI. RAMSI is a multi-national, multi-agency approach to address a range of social and economic issues facing the people of Solomon Islands. Its mission is structured around three distinct ‘pillars’: law and justice, economic reform and machinery of government.
“RAMSI’s policing function is carried out by a Participating Police Force (PPF), of which the main contingent is from the AFP. The PPF, in partnership with Solomon Islands Police (SIPF), aims to restore security, maintain law and order and re-build the SIPF. The first contingent of AFP arrived in Solomon Islands on 24 July 2003 and the deployment has continued since then.”
One year on for RAMSI, AFP Media release, 24 July 2004
“On 24 July 2004 it will be one year since the first Australian Hercules touched down at Henderson International Airport in Honiara, marking the start of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI). As part of this police led operation, the Australian Federal Police sent 206 officers (including officers from what was then Australian Protective Services) as the law enforcement contingent. This contingent was led by Federal Agent Ben McDevitt.
Today 208 Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers along with 94 personnel from eight regional countries make up the 302-member Participating Police Force (PPF) currently operating in Solomon Islands. Other countries to provide police are New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Nauru and the Cook Islands
The aim of the PPF is to work alongside their counterparts in the Royal Solomon Islands Police (RSIP) to restore law and order and help build the long term capacity of the local police force to address ongoing crime and order issues.
The PPF is just one part of RAMSI which is lead by Nick Warner, a senior officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The purpose of the wider Mission is to facilitate the return of good governance and longer term economic recovery.
The commencement phase of the operation (July to December 2003) met all objectives including establishing a PPF presence in Honiara and key provinces, establishing a safe social environment in which law, order, security and good governance could be realised, and reducing illegal activity including serious crime, extortion, violence and corruption.”
Commentary and analysis
Report: The limits of RAMSI, AidWatch, 27 April 2008
After five years, much uncertainty remains in the Solomon Islands over the future of RAMSI. As a security force it still enjoys broad support, but there are serious local objections to its role and its semi-permanent nature has brought new problems. In this report, Dr. Tim Anderson explores the impact that RAMSI has had for Solomon Islanders and highlights the Limits of RAMSI.
“Responding to State Failure”, Elsina Wainwright, Australian Institute for International Affairs, Vol.57, No.3, November 2003
“The Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission in Solomon Islands is an example of a response to state failure. It is also the first step in a shift in Australia’s policy towards the broader South Pacific-to prevent other weak states in the region going the way of Solomon Islands and moving closer towards state failure. Responding to state failure is at the top of the international security agenda, and it is likely that the incidence of interventions in failed or failing states will increase. The Australian-led intervention in Solomon Islands has a number of distinct features that make it an interesting case study, and one which might inform future international responses to state failure.”
“Failed State” and the War on Terror: Intervention in Solomon Islands, Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka, East West Centre, No.72, March 2004
“Since the September 11 tragedy, concern has risen that so-called “failed states,” losing the struggle to maintain law and order at home, could become springboards for terrorism. Australia has shed its reluctance to intervene militarily in Pacific trouble-spots-such as Solomon Islands, whose descent into chaos and violence was sparked in 1998 by civil unrest on Guadalcanal. With regional support, Australia led a mission in 2003 to restore law and order. A short-term success, the mission leaves questions about its long-term ability to achieve either well-being for Solomon Islands or security for the region. Its emphasis on shoring up a perennially weak central government, and its inattention to other pillars of Solomons society, threaten to undermine its success and create a crippling sense of dependency. For the mission to succeed, it must empower Solomon Islanders to take charge of their own destiny.”
Bridging the gap between state and society – new directions for Solomon Islands, Oxfam Australia and Oxfam New Zealand, July 2006
“This report documents a widespread feeling that ordinary Solomon Islanders are excluded from government processes and decision-making, pointing to a lack of linkages and engagement between government and citizens. Whilst many Solomon Islanders have welcomed RAMSI’s role in ending the conflict of the late 1990s, the assertion that the public is both informed about and supportive of all aspects of the intervention needs to be qualified. ’s resources, especially for the bulk of the population who live in rural areas and outer islands. There are also new pressures on government, as citizens express their concern over elite corruption.”
Counterinsurgency in a Test Tube: Analyzing the Success of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), Russell W. Glenn, RAND National Defence Research Institute, Monograph MG-551, 2007, p20
“…on July 24, 2003, the first elements of RAMSI landed on Guadalcanal. The military component, the Combined Task Force (CTF) 635, included elements of the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR), and units from New Zealand, Fiji, PNG, and Tonga. Police personnel included representatives of those five nations and others from Samoa, Vanuatu, Kiribati, the Cook Islands, and Nauru. The military element numbered 1,800, and the police 230; Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) initial leadership and entourage consisted of ten people.
“Civilians represented a considerable number of other functions and organizations in addition to DFAT: the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID, the nation’s governmental aid organization), New Zealand’s International Aid and Development Agency (NZAID), treasury, finance, and oversight and coordination teams among them. Altogether such a presence was insufficient to simultaneously dominate and suppress all resistance across a population of 530,000 and many islands, but its numbers were by no means negligible given that RAMSI’s capabilities were concentrated where most appropriate.”
Mission Helpem Fren – A Review of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, Report of the Pacific Islands Forum Eminent Persons Group, May 2005
“On 18 February 2005, the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Sir Allan Kemakeza, on behalf of the Government of Solomon Islands invited the Forum to dispatch an Eminent Persons Group with the objective of assessing the impact of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) and the challenges facing Solomon Islands in the future.”
Updated: 9 June 2009