The Australian government is negotiating a deal with the Solomon Islands to give the Australian Federal Police (AFP) a permanent presence in its capital city, Honiara, under the umbrella of the Australian high commission.
The Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) will end in June 2017, after mobilising AFP and police and military personnel from Pacific countries as part of the Participating Police Force (PPF).
Operating for more than 13 years, RAMSI was ostensibly deployed as a “peacekeeping” mission. In reality, it was an act of neo-colonialism and part of the broader pattern of Australian imperialist intervention into Pacific island nations. As Diane Fieldes wrote in Socialist Alternative magazine in 2006:
“RAMSI began in July 2003 with the arrival of 2,500 police and troops, mostly from Australia. The RAMSI occupation has also taken over all the key posts in the prisons, courts, finance and other key government departments …
“According to Solomon Islands Anglican bishop Terry Brown, the ‘fixing’ has meant more violence, poverty, unemployment and corruption, with millions spent on the Australians who lord it over the country. He described RAMSI as ‘more and more like an occupying army’.”
A 2014 Lowy Institute report calculated that the mission cost Australia $2.6 billion. On 22 July, minister for international development and the Pacific Concetta Fierravanti-Wells told the Australian-Solomon Islands Business Forum in Brisbane: “While RAMSI might be leaving Solomon Islands next year, Australia is not going anywhere”.
The deal will also include “a mechanism that would allow Solomon Islands to seek emergency operational assistance from Australia, if an emergency arose in the future”, according to the minister. By “emergency”, you can include any situation in which the population seeks to install a government hostile to Australian imperialism.
Police commissioner Frank Prendergast told Solomon Star News, “What is likely to happen is that there will be some forms of continued Police Development Missions in the Solomons which will align with the type of ... missions you see in many countries around the world”.
Prendergast was national manager of AFP’s International Deployment Group, which managed deployments to countries including Afghanistan, Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
The former governor general of the Solomon Islands, Nathaniel Waena, criticised the negotiations, saying: “The arrangement might undermine the sovereignty of this country”.