29 Nov 2012

Possibly last New Zealand and Tongan military contingents to Solomon Islands farewelled

4:21 pm on 29 November 2012

Haka from the Tongan and New Zealand soldiers serving under the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands completed a handover to their Papua New Guinean and Australian counterparts at the RAMSI base just outside of the capital Honiara earlier today.

Top defence and RAMSI officials have confirmed no more soldiers will take part in the mission after next July.

Annell Husband reports from Honiara.

"The Tongan marines performed what was described by the New Zealand Defence Force's land component commander as a powerful and symbolic haka, marking their handover to soldiers from PNG. Brigadier Mark Wheeler told the assembled troops and officials, RAMSI's success in restoring security in Solomon Islands can be attributed to its regional composition, saying it's a Pacific Solution to a Pacific problem. New Zealand's 2nd 1st battalion peeled off their shirts for a performance of their own haka, leaving them on the ground to symbolise their willingness to return to Solomon Islands if needed. RAMSI's special coordinator, Nicholas Coppel told those present, the mission is not in a draw-down trajectory, saying troops will remain in the country until at least the middle of next year."