PRIME Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, has requested the New Zealand (NZ) Government to reciprocate the visa-waver arrangement that Solomon Islands is currently offering to NZ.
The Prime Minister made the request in a courtesy meeting with the NZ Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee delegation that visited Honiara last week.
The Prime Minister’s Press Secretariat described the courtesy meeting as a ‘fruitful dialogue’ that covered the SI- NZ bilateral relations and development cooperation, NZ’s sectoral assistance to Solomon Islands, a reciprocal visa-waver arrangement, an air service agreement, NZ’s Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme and NZ’s COVID-19 assistance to Solomon Islands.
“Since NZ is trying to enhance its Pacific Reset Policy, the reciprocal visa waiver arrangement would be necessary to be included in the policy as this will enhance engagement, partnerships and collaboration with the pacific,” Prime Minister Sogavare said.
The Prime Minister told the delegation that Solomon Islands needs further support towards consolidation of its Labour Mobility policy, Strategies and programmes to ensure efficient facilitation and implementation of its Labour Mobility Unit programmes.
He also assured the delegation of Honiara’s readiness to fully commit to and exhaust its bilateral ties with NZ and work cooperatively on various national development needs.
Prime Minister Sogavare also informed the NZ delegation of the need to have a much deeper dialogue around the bilateral aid programmes, principles for development cooperation, and other relevant development focus areas.
He acknowledged the Government of NZ for the support it provided towards the following areas:
- Development of Bina Harbour Tuna Processing plant project;
- Aviation and provincial airports upgrade;
- Supporting the Solomon Island Inland Revenue Division (SIIRD);
- Funding support and commitment towards the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock National Programmes and development aspirations;
- Security partnership under the Police Cooperation Programme, and for responding to the Solomon Islands Government request during the November 2021 Riot in Honiara and also extending the NZ Defence Force deployment in Solomon Islands until May 2023; and
- NZ’s COVID-19 assistance worth SBD $83.6 million
Prime Minister Sogavare also took the opportunity to convey Solomon Islands sympathy to NZ for the devastating effects of Cyclone Gabrielle.
The committee’s chairperson, Jenny Salesa, explained that their visit Honiara was to ‘strengthen bilateral relationships, inform the committee’s current inquiry into fisheries in the Pacific, gain insights into Solomon Islands COVID-19 response and better understand regional strategic issues.”
She said NZ’s development partnership with Solomon Islands is based on an understanding of shared priorities and results that Solomon Islands want to achieve and to which New Zealand can add value.
By Deli-Sharon Oso