Thu, Jan 25, 2007 - Page 3 News List

MOFA defends Solomons assistance

POLICE TRAINING The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said help given to its allies' forces was part of an agreement and the Australian press should get its facts straight

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan's assistance in training the Solomon Islands police force is based on mutual cooperation agreements reached during the first Taiwan-Pacific Allies Summit held last September, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday.

The ministry made the remarks in response to a story in the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday which said that 12 Solomon Islands police officers had been sent to Taiwan for special training.

The article said that Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare had criticized the Australian government for interfering in the nation's internal affairs after he refused to continue to be guarded by armed Australian officers.

All police officers on the islands were disarmed in 2003 when Australia led a regional intervention force to restore order after years of ethnic violence.

Of the 314 police officers from the Pacific region deployed in the Solomons, 230 are Australian, the Australian newspaper said.

Ministry Spokesman David Wang (王建業) said yesterday that the government did offer some training to the Solomons police force as it was normal for Taiwan to help its allies in such matters.

Taiwan's help in maintaining social order and safety in the Solomon Islands was one part of the plan that was reached in the Palau Declaration signed during the first Taiwan-Pacific Allies Summit on Sept. 4 last year when President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) attended the summit along with seven of the nation's oceanic allies, Wang said.

According to the fourth article of the declaration, it was agreed to enhance cooperation in many fields and the first area was "law enforcement training."

It noted that "additional or expanded programs were needed to detect and prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism, international trafficking of persons, illegal border crossings and customs irregularities.

"Cooperation shall be coordinated to improve the practical training of each country's law enforcement or other relevant personnel and administration, relating both to land and sea," it said.

"This training [of the Solomons police force] is based on the goal of maintaining social order and preventing terrorism. We are by no means interfering in any country's domestic affairs," Wang said.

Wang also said that the ministry would request its representative in Australia correct "inaccurate reporting," he added.

Wang had no comment on whether the Australian government had pressured Taiwan to drop a firearms component from the training course, which was also mentioned in the Herald's report.

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