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Monday, 29 May 2000
Page: 16402

Mr BRERETON (2:10 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Minister, in light of the events in Suva, do you agree that it would be inappropriate for Sitiveni Rabuka to continue in his role as Commonwealth mediator in the Solomon Islands? Given that additional Fijian police will now not be available to reinforce the Commonwealth Multinational Police Assistance Group, what further measures is the government taking to support the peace process in the Solomon Islands?

Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —I thank the honourable member for his question. The question of who the Commonwealth Secretary-General's mediator in the Solomon Islands should be is a matter for the Secretary-General himself. I was in communication with the Secretary-General on Saturday, and we had quite an extensive discussion about the situation in the Solomon Islands. I can say that, to the best of my knowledge, he does not have any plans to replace General Rabuka as the mediator, but of course the situation in Fiji is such that there is not much in any case that General Rabuka can do. But this will no doubt be a matter that he, the Secretary-General, will consider over the next few days.

The honourable member implicitly raises the question of the participation by Fijian police in the Commonwealth's multilateral police presence in the Solomon Islands. This is indeed a question that the government is addressing and, again, is a matter that I have discussed with my New Zealand counterpart, Mr Goff. There are proposals for additional police to be provided from Vanuatu, and Vanuatu has, to the best of my knowledge, been quite positive in offering a considerable number of police for this exercise. Considerations are being given further by Australia, New Zealand and others to other sources for the additional police. It is certainly necessary for police to be provided; there is no question of that. The government is committed to funding 50 police at the request of the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands. We are maintaining that commitment. In addition to the commitment under the Commonwealth's multilateral policing operation, there are some Australian advisers on the ground in the Solomon Islands as well, assisting with the policing task there.