18 Mar 2004

RAMSI head says things are getting better on Solomon Islands' Weather Coast

11:08 am on 18 March 2004

The head of the regional assistance mission to the Solomons says the strife torn Weather Coast is gradually returning to normal but it may take some years for the tensions to ease.

RAMSI special coordinator Nick Warner says some 14-hundred internally displaced people who fled the coast during the reign of terror by warlord Harold Keke have now returned there, and seem to be settling in well.

Ramsi has withdrawn its permanent military presence on the coast in recent days, with the Participating Police Force operating under Ramsi assuming a greater role, assisted by local chiefs and peace council representatives.

Mr Warner says although there is still tension, he's noticed a big change in the kinds of questions villagers on the coast ask him, which used to be focussed on security.

"They're now starting to think about how they're going to educate their children, when's the school going to be built, when's the first aid clinic going to be put in place, what are donors going to do to help them? So it's a much easier feeling on the Weather coast now than it has been at any time since I've been going down there, and that's for the last eight months."

Nick Warner says he believes RAMSI may have to maintain a significant policing presence in Solomon Islands at least until 2008.