17 Oct 2007

Australia says Solomon Islands govt unwise not to have representative at meeting

12:32 pm on 17 October 2007

The Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, says the Solomon Islands government is unwise to not have a representative at this year's Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tonga.

On the agenda is a review of the regional assistance mission, RAMSI, which was requested by Solomon Islands at last year's leaders meeting.

The Foreign Minister of Solomon Islands, Patterson Oti, attended yesterday's official opening but left before discussions began.

Mr Downer says it's not in the country's interest to boycott a meeting of 15 nations discussing the support that's being given to Solomon Islands.

"I just thought it would be a great opportunity to come along and talk about the review and talk about the issue, but they do not have too, it's nothing compulsory in this world, it's good to be wise, but if you are not, then you can boycott a meeting and than of course you can not contribute."

Alexander Downer also says that Tonga's path towards political reform will not be discussed by regional leaders at this year's Forum meeting.

A few thousand supporters of the People's Committee for Political Reform gathered at a private residence in Nuku'alofa yesterday to urge the Tongan government to move towards democracy next year.

Plans to march through the capital, where pro-democracy riots killed seven people and destroyed much of the central business district last year, were abandoned because the government denied permission.

Mr Downer says whether the Kingdom implements change next year is not a matter for this year's Forum summit.

From my knowledge and my visit here in July, I think the government here and other relevant parties are all committed to reform. I think reform is happening.

The protesters plan to meet again today.