WikiLeaks cable: NZ update on the Solomons

Photo / Mark Mitchell
Photo / Mark Mitchell

May 26, 2005
NZ update on the Solomons

date:2006-05-26T00:50:00
source:Embassy Wellington
origin:06WELLINGTON406
destination:VZCZCXRO8355 OO RUEHPB DE RUEHWL #0406/01 1460050 ZNY
CCCCC ZZH O 260050Z MAY 06 FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON TO RUEHC/SECSTATE
WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2828 INFO RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA IMMEDIATE 4421
RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY IMMEDIATE 0566 RUEHSV/AMEMBASSY SUVA
IMMEDIATE 0464 RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE RHHMUNA/CDR
USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE RHHJJAA/JICPAC HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHDC IMMEDIATE
classification:CONFIDENTIAL
reference:06WELLINGTON298|06WELLINGTON406
?C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 WELLINGTON 000406

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR D (FRITZ), EAP/FO, EAP/ANP, AND PM/ISO
NSC FOR VI...
?C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 WELLINGTON 000406

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR D (FRITZ), EAP/FO, EAP/ANP, AND PM/ISO
NSC FOR VICTOR CHA
SECDEF FOR OSD/ISD LIZ PHU
PACOM FOR JO1E/J2/J233/J5/SJFHQ

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/25/2015
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, NZ
SUBJECT: NZ UPDATE ON THE SOLOMONS

REF: WELLINGTON 298

Classified By: DCM David R. Burnett,
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: GNZ officials report that a May 19 meeting
between New Zealand Foreign Minister Peters, Australian
Foreign Minister Downer, and Solomon Island officials was
"difficult." However, the Solomons PM was much more
conciliatory during a separate meeting with Peters on May 23.
Most Solomon Islanders seem to support RAMSI, but GNZ thinks
more needs to be done to educate the local population about
RAMSI's work. NZ officials believe PM Sogavare is in a
difficult position, and they are trying to deliver a firm
message without making things hard for the moderates in his
Cabinet. Meanwhile, NZDF predicts a NZ platoon will be in
the Solomons at least until the end of the year, although NZ
police should be down to pre-election levels by mid-June.
End Summary.

2. (C) Peters and Downers had actually scheduled their visit
to the Solomons about two months ago, presuming this would be
a good time to meet the new government. The timing had been
changed slightly to May 19, not because of the recent unrest
in the Solomons (reftel), but because of Peters desire to be
present in Parliament when the Government unveiled its budget
on May 18. When the visit was originally planned, Peters had
intended to stay in the Solomons a day longer than Downer,
who left after a day. However, the budget-related change
meant that Peters missed the return commercial flight so he
stayed on until May 22. During the three-day solo visit, in
addition to the second meeting with Sogavare Peters met with
the Foreign Minister, Governor General, and Opposition
leader. He also visited Western Province and Malaita.

3. (C) Marion Crawshaw, an NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs
and Trade (MFAT) official who accompanied Peters, told
Pol-Econ Couns that Solomons PM Sogavare was a lot more
tempered in his remarks during his May 22 meeting with Peters
than he had been in a larger meeting with Australian FM
Downer, Solomons FM Patteson Oti and others just three days
before. Crawshaw, who is Director of MFAT's Bilateral
Pacific Division believes this is because Oti was not at the
second meeting. RAMSI principals who had met with Sogavare
had found him similarly constructive, she said, but found it
had been hard to get the meeting via Oti. She said whereas
at the first meeting PM Sogavare and FM Oti had talked about
the need for a RAMSI exit strategy, when Sogavare met with
Peters alone he said "exit strategy" meant that RAMSI would
leave one day, once its job was done.

4. (C) GNZ officials actually have some sympathy for
Sogavare, Crawshaw said. He is under a fair amount of
pressure from the moderates in the Cabinet, but also needs
the votes of both Ministers who are in prison (Charles
Dausabea and Nelson Ne'e) to stay in power. Although others
in GNZ consider Sogavare to be corrupt, Crawshaw says she has
seen no evidence that he is "seriously in the till,"
although she added that it seems no Solomons politician is
completely honest. Rather, she believes the PM's biggest
problem is that he very much wants to be Prime Minister and
is willing to ally with some very dishonest people to hold
onto the post. Crawshaw says that during a five minute
one-on-one with Peters on the margins of their meeting,
Sogavare apparently said that he was relying on RAMSI,
Australia, and New Zealand "to give us sanity."

5. (C) For this reason, GNZ and the Australians are working
through how to provide some tough messages to the Solomons
while at the same time supporting the moderates in the
Cabinet around Sogavare Crawshaw said that during Peters'
meetings and tour of the Solomons, people were generally
supportive of RAMSI. However they, and even PM Sogavare seem
unaware of all the work that RAMSI is actually doing. For
example, the PM said there was a need for "capacity building"
so that responsibility can be passed along to the Solomon
Islanders. But he was apparently not aware that much
capacity building was already in place, such as by the many
Australian Finance Ministry staff who have rotated through
Honiara. Crawshaw said that GNZ needs to do a better job to
help publicize RAMSI's work, both in the Solomons and among
NGOs in New Zealand.

6. (C) Peters also stopped in Papua New Guinea on his way
back from the Solomons, where he had a good meeting with PNG
Foreign Minister Namaliu. Crawshaw said Peters was pleased
that PNG is apparently sending the right message to the
Solomons Government, and one that tracks closely to
Australia's and New Zealand's:

-- RAMSI is a package and can't be cut up.
-- GOS has the responsibility to ensure the right things
happen.
-- Good governance is fundamental.
-- The economic situation in the Solomons is dire and must be
addressed.

7. (C) DATT and Pol-Econ Couns also discussed GNZ's Solomons
contributions with NZDF officers Brigadier Warren Whiting,
Assistant Chief for Strategic Commitments and Intelligence,
and Colonel Mike Thompson, Director for Strategic
Commitments. Both confirmed that New Zealand will as early
as next week draw down their police presence in the Solomons
to pre-election levels, from about 64 to 35. The military
drawdown will be slower, however. The 125 NZDF personnel now
there will be reduced to about 40 by mid-late June. Before
the elections, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and
Tonga rotated through 1 platoon each. Now, both Australia
and New Zealand have standing platoons there, and the others
are rotating through. Whiting said the command arrangements
still need to be worked through. He anticipates that the
expanded force will be in the Solomons at least until the end
of the year, if not longer.
McCormick

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