17 Mar 2004

All Solomon Islands internal refugees return to their Weathercoast homes

2:39 pm on 17 March 2004

The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands says all of the people who fled violence on the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal have now returned to their villages.

Solomons officials say about 1,400 people fled the Coast from May last year, often travelling across Guadalcanal by foot, to seek security in the capital, Honiara.

The resettlement of the internally displaced people has been achieved by RAMSI, working with the Royal Solomon Islands Police, the National Peace Council, the National Disaster Management Office and other groups.

RAMSI says law and order have returned to the formerly embattled coast and it has withdrawn its permanent military presence there.

Instead, the multi-national Participating Police Force has assumed a greater role, helped by up to nine handpicked officers from the Solomons Police.

RAMSI says these moves are complemented by a recent announcement that a Council of Chiefs in the area has organised regular meetings, which should further bolster the confidence of villagers.

The milestone has been welcomed by the director of the national Disaster Management Office, Loti Yates, who has thanked Ramsi and all others involved, including Ausaid, NZ Aid, the United Nations Development Programme and others.