29 Nov 2012

Solomons ready for military withdrawal says soldier

4:25 am on 29 November 2012

A New Zealand soldier among what is expected to be the final platoon of New Zealanders to participate in the regional assistance mission to Solomon Islands or RAMSI says the country seems ready for a military withdrawal.

Lance Corporal Karl Johnson's platoon is the 16th to be sent from New Zealand since 2003 when the Australian-led force was first deployed to restore peace after several years of civil unrest.

Although RAMSI will remain in Solomon Islands for at least another four years, its focus will be on ensuring the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force is robust enough to maintain law and order.

Lance Corporal Johnson says the capital Honiara, the heart of much of the conflict of the late 90s, seems very peaceful.

"Where you find large groups of unemployed young men, you're going to have tensions of some description but it's no worse than South Auckland that's for sure. And probably a damn sight safer."

Lance Corporal Johnson says the large numbers of Solomon Islanders he has seen working hard in tough conditions to improve their lot give him hope for the country's future.