30 Nov 2006

New RAMSI Head aims at establishing good dialogue with Solomons' PM and govt

10:06 am on 30 November 2006

The new head of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands says he's establishing a close and constructive relationship with the government.

Tim George took over from fellow Australian James Batley as RAMSI's Special Co-ordinator earlier this month.

His arrival coincides with the announcement of a new review of RAMSI commissioned by the Pacific Forum leaders at its recent summit.

This came amid strong criticism by Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogovare about the Australian-dominance of RAMSI and key positions in the civil service.

Mr George says he has already met with Mr Sogovare a couple of times.

"We're keen as an organisation to have a very good dialogue with the government here and a conducive environment for the operations of RAMSI and that's what we're working on. So I've made it a high priority to have a close and constructive dialogue with the Prime Minister and other members of the government."

And he says capacity building remains a key aim of RAMSI and admits there's still a long way to go.

Over the last year I think there were about 99 new recruits graduated into the Police Force. There were more Solomon Islanders appointed to new positions in the Force. There were more recruits in the Solomon Islands Prison Service, and in the Legal area, a Solomon Islander appointed as the Director of Public Prosecution. In terms of the Civil Service, there's been some good progress there I think with accelerated recruitment into the service.