SOLOMON ISLANDS CLAIMS MILLIONS FOR BOUGAINVILLE WAR DAMAGES

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (October 19, 1998 - The National)--- Leaders from the Choiseul and Shortland islands of the Solomon Islands have demanded K 7 million (US$ 3.2 million) in compensation for the damages and spill-over effects the islanders have suffered as a result of the Bougainville conflict.

They made this known in a meeting in Gizo two weeks ago attended by officials from the Bougainville Transitional Government (BTG), rebels, the office of Bougainville Affairs and chiefs and the premier of the two islands.

"While Solomon islanders supported reconciliation for Bougainvilleans, Papua New Guineans and the people of the Solomon Islands, a request for K 7 million (US$ 3.2 million) from the K 10 million (US$ 4.575 million) commitment made by the Skate government, be paid directly to the Choiseul and Shortland islands, to compensate for the spill-over effects of the Bougainville war,'' a statement released after the meeting said.

It said the islanders also suggested that the present restoration program on Bougainville should be extended to the border provinces of the Solomon Islands.

"We have suffered from a war that was not ours. We had properties burnt, sustained injuries, suffered from fear and loss of lives just as the many thousands of Bougainvilleans.

Details of the extent of destruction through incursions by rebels and the Papua New Guinea Security Forces during the Bougainville crisis were obtained during the meeting, a prelude to the reconciliation ceremony to take place in December this year.

The meeting was chaired by the Solomon Islands Minister for Home Affairs, Rev Leslie Boseto, and was also attended by officials from the Foreign Affairs Ministry in the Solomon Islands Government.

''The Choiseul province is only seven years old; it is Solomon Islands newest and the most affected in terms of development. War broke out on Bougainville only a few years after we were declared a province, and we were kept busy with the spill-over effects of this war; we couldn't do much to develop our land,'' Choiseul Premier Gerald Vazarabatu said.

The meeting agreed to hold further discussions with the chiefs of Bougainville on November 2 and 5 in Arawa. More than 40 Solomon Islands chiefs are expected to attend.

Team leader David Onavui (rebel) and the Bougainville Repatriation and Reconciliation Committee executive officer, Jobson Misang, and BTG's Peace Liaison officer, Peter Sohia, are expected to return to the Shortland islands of the Solomon Islands this week for further talks.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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