24 Dec 2004

Pacific Islands Forum doubts wrong to scale back RAMSI military

7:32 am on 24 December 2004

The secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum, Greg Urwin, says he doubts it was the wrong decision, earlier this year, to scale back the military component of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands.

Australia flew in 100 soldiers yesterday after the killing of the Canberra police officer, Adam Dunning, while on a routine patrol in Honiara early on Wednesday morning.

The military component had been cut back by hundreds from the beginning of the year and by July fighting personnel had been cut to a single platoon.

Groups such as the National Peace Council say this down-sizing was premature.

Mr Urwin says the aim had always been to normalise the situation as quickly as possible - and that objective remains sound.

"People can I suppose misjudge timing, but I'm not sure that as a result of just this one incident you would necessarily make that kind of judgement. I think the general movement was the correct one."

The Australian Justice Minister Chris Ellison has also denied claims the government had reduced too quickly, its military support for assistance mission police in the Solomons.