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Getting the historical facts right

Dear Editor,

THE Star newspaper published an article yesterday, Wednesday, entitled ‘RAMSI ends: what’s next for SI?’ written by Grant Wyeth and original published in the Diplomat.

The article purported to give an overview of the formation of the nation from a ‘British colonial endeavour’ to the onset of the period beset by ethnic violence and the subsequent intervention of RAMSI in 2003.

Because of the brevity of the article, it lacked many historical facts and it concerns me that those seeking to know the truth of what occurred in the Solomon Islands between 1998 and 2003 might accept Mr Wyeth’s version of the historical record as being complete without realizing the fuller and more complex picture of what really occurred.

To obtain an accurate record of events and occurrences between 1997 and mid-1999, I suggest a reading of my published book; ‘Policing a Clash of Culture’ might give a better insight to your readers of what really happened.

Most chapters of my book are still to be found in the Opinion Column of the Solomon Times on Line publication (available locally), although the newspaper removed three chapters considered too sensitive for its readers.  The book itself is available as a Kindle edition on Amazon.

Mr Wyeth correctly wrote in his article that, “Prior to 2003, Australia had been reluctant to intervene in the conflict,” and this despite repeated requests from Prime Minister Ulufa’alu for assistance.

Mr Wyeth’s article claims Australia’s role in the independence of Timor-Leste had aroused Indonesian suspicions of potential Australian sympathy towards the independence movement in West Papua.

“The thinking was that any use of military force in the region could have been perceived by Indonesia as an Australian fondness for regional interventions, compounding suspicions of Australia’s disregard for Indonesian sovereignty.”

His article fails to mention Alexander Downer, the Australian Foreign Minister’s total opposition to intervening in the Solomon Islands crisis citing there would be no exit strategy.

The world changed after the tragedy of 9/11 in the United States and Australia’s strategy belatedly began to focus on terrorism and the potential for failed states to become targets for terrorism.

The 2002 Bali nightclub bombing, which killed 88 Australians, was a direct wake-up call and really became the relevant factor inducing Australia’s decision to intervene in 2003.

Mr Wyeth says in his article, “Violence came to an almost immediate halt with the RAMSI intervention, and within a few weeks most of the militias’ weaponry had been confiscated and destroyed.”

I am on record as saying that had Australia heeded Prime Minister Ulufa’alu’s request for help in 1999, the violence would similarly have ended swiftly and the likelihood is the SIAC government would have continued in office, many injuries and deaths would have been prevented and a intervention force with its assets withdrawn at an early stage and at far less cost than the million of dollars spent on maintaining RAMSI for 14 years and at tax payers expense.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short