National | Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern: Not 'propping up' Solomons regime

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says her government “would never send people to keep a regime in power”.

She was talking to teaomā this morning and was responding to a question that asked if she regretted sending Defence Force personnel last year to "prop up" the Solomons regime, led by a prime minister who refused to let judges return to his country and who had banned critical journalists.

"Ultimately, this is a prime minister who is democratically elected who puts motions to Parliament that, regardless of whether you agree or disagree, has the ability to put the motion to Parliament for those who are democratically elected to vote on," she said.

"That is the sovereign power of any leader."

New Zealand has previously been involved in the Solomons with Australia for the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), which ran from 2003 to 2018, at first restoring order and later training police. In May New Zealand's government extended a year-old mission by a year to help local police keep order.

"Where New Zealand comes in, we have had longstanding arrangements where most of our effort is currently supporting and training community responses in policing," Ardern said. "So that's a big part of what we do."

'Helping bring back peace'

Ardern said there was a period recently where there were riots and potentially individuals who were not safe in their communities. "As a result, we were asked to help bring peace back to the Solomons. We provided that. It is something very different again to claim that we are propping up a regime. I would not characterise it in that way."

Asked why Defence Force personnel were being sent to a country that postponed elections, refused to let judges return and a prime minister who had two no-confidence votes protect that government against protestors, she replied:  I totally reject the way you are framing this issue.

"If a democratically elected government puts a motion to Parliament to add a year to their term, so they can host the Pacific Games, then ultimately that is a matter for their democracy. The question here is, when asked does New Zealand reject a request to support the health and wellbeing of people where we have played a longstanding role in reaching peace and stability to try and ensure the peace is kept now. That was some time ago the request occurred. What we are doing now predominantly is training Solomons Islands police officers." and community-led policing.

“So, I’m going to stop doing this because we’re getting into a situation where your questions have so many claims and assertions in them that I think are incorrect, I think that it probably making it a little frustrating for the viewer,” the prime minister said.