Goff takes cautionary message to Solomons

By Audrey Young

Defence Minister Phil Goff will visit the Solomon Islands this week to deliver a strong anti-violence and anti-corruption message to voters and the Government.

"Mob rule simply isn't going to be tolerated and those that engage in it will find that there are consequences," Mr Goff said last night.

"It's important to get the message across that the rule of law applies to those who are governed and those who are in Government alike. The new Government is going to have to work very hard to ensure that they do win public confidence, that they are working for all Solomon Islanders and not for a few."

Mr Goff will also meet and thank almost 200 New Zealand military and police personnel keeping the peace there, whose ranks were boosted after rioters opposing the new Government burned much of the commercial centre last week.

Mr Goff plans to arrive on Thursday, the day after a no-confidence motion is due to determine whether Snyder Rini has retained the numbers over the past week to form a Government.

A vote in Parliament today for the position of Deputy Speaker may give a clue whether Mr Rini has maintained his support.

The arrest in the Solomons yesterday of a third MP since the riots broke out had created no apparent unrest at curfew time last night.

MPs were sworn in at Parliament yesterday under heavy security that kept out the public. Mr Goff said that while the riots had been disappointing after an election process that had appeared to work, it was important to keep them in perspective.

The Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (Ramsi) had worked incredibly well for three years and in the present situation had probably prevented considerable loss of life.

"And when we make a judgment about what happened there, we've got to recall that Paris hasn't been free of similar acts of violence and arson, and even in our country, for reasons that seemed inexplicable at the time and since, we saw the '80s riot in Queen St."

Mr Goff said Ramsi had been a model and was never a short-term measure.

"We've got to continue to work not only to change the institutions, but the culture of behaviour and culture of governance."

Mr Goff did not use the word corruption, but his message echoes that of Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer who told the Government at the weekend that stamping out corruption had to be a priority.

Meanwhile, New Zealand High Commissioner Brian Sanders said from Honiara last night that the arrest of Opposition MP Charles Dausabea after his swearing-in at Parliament had not caused any unrest that he was aware of.

Fellow Opposition MP Nelson Ne'e is being held in custody after being charged with threatening and intimidating behaviour in relation to the unrest.

Another MP, Patrick Vahoe, is on bail after being charged with breaking the curfew imposed since the riots.

Mr Sanders said the vote today for Deputy Speaker would be the first big test of numbers for the Government and the Opposition.

Since the riots, 106 people have been arrested.


KIWIS ABROAD

* The 125 New Zealand troops in the Solomons are among 621 serving overseas today, Anzac Day.

* Of that number, 271 are "operationally deployed" in international hotspots such as Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans - and also in Antarctica - and 350 are on exercises or "defence diplomacy" missions, such as HMNZS Te Mana's voyage to Southeast Asia.

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