19 Jul 2006

Solomon Islands prime minister confirms signing roll-over of RAMSI agreement

3:29 pm on 19 July 2006

The Solomon Islands prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, has confirmed that he has signed a document allowing the Regional Assistance Mission, or RAMSI, to continue operating in the country.

He says parliament does not need to be convened to review the Facilitation Act under which RAMSI operates.

The prime minister was commenting after the opposition leader, Fred Fono, said the agreement would expire on the weekend and the act stipulated that parliament should be given the opportunity to review this annually.

But, Mr Sogavare says the government is not going to review the operations of RAMSI immediately so instead he's endorsed the act's international assistance notice, and that will be tabled in parliament.

"It is just basically a roll over because the Facilitation Act gives the government the opportunity to review it if you want to review it. But, at this point in time, we are still gathering information to be able to make a proper review so we decided to let it roll over."

Mr Sogavare says they've taken legal advice on the matter which stated they could go ahead with the endorsement.

But, Mr Fono says this is unacceptable and they are considering a variety of options.

One of them is to raise a question to the High Court for a legal interpretation on sections 23 of the Facilitation act, whether or not the prime minister on his own has the power to sign the international assistance notice, rather than parliament passing that before the prime minister could sign that.

Fred Fono.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for RAMSI says they are yet to be officially informed of the prime minister's actions so cannot comment at this point.