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By Sinclair Solomon

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (June 10, 1999 - The National)--- The Solomon Islands has turned to Papua New Guinea for urgent financial assistance to quell the social unrest on the main island of Guadalcanal by an ethnic militant group.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa‘alu yesterday dispatched his trouble-shooter, Minister for State Alfred Sasako, to Port Moresby with a letter of appeal for Prime Minister Bill Skate.

Mr. Sasako left the capital Honiara as a policeman was wounded earlier in the day after being caught in crossfire between the people of Guadalcanal and Malaita island.

Authorities told AFP that the policeman was not badly hurt but the shooting happened as most of the capital was closed amid fears that the militant group, the Guadalcanal Liberation Army, might attack the city.

The group made up of ethnic Guadalcanal people opposes the growing number of people from Malaita island in the capital.

Apart from a meeting with Prime Minister Skate, Mr. Sasako is also expected to meet Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Roy Yaki and Defense Minister Peter Waieng during his three days of talks here.

Mr Sasako said last night that while his country would not say no to military or any other forms of assistance from Papua New Guinea, Honiara was more interested in financial assistance due to it under a 1997 aid agreement between the two countries.

Under this agreement, PNG would provide the Solomon Islands an annual grant of K10 million for four years starting last year.

Mr. Sasako said that PNG has already paid K2 million of this year's contribution and his mission here was to ask for the rest to be paid soon so that it would be used for police operations and other programs to end the social tension.

The Guadalcanal Liberation Group, which also goes by the name of Guadalcanal Revolutionary Army, has demanded $2.5 million Solomon Islands dollars (K1.7 million) from the Government for what it claims were the killing of 25 locals by the Malaita people in the past 20 years; and a state government.

Mr. Sasako said that the second demand was unrealistic while the Ulufa'alu Government wants the militants to lay down their arms first because negotiations could begin on the compensation claims which would be done in the traditional style involving shell money, pigs and other traditional items of solving disputes.

He said that despite various overtures by the national government towards an amicable settlement, the militants appeared to be becoming more aggressive.

"It is unsettling," he said, adding that it had all the signs of turning into "another Bougainville."

Mr. Sasako, a Malaita islander and UPNG graduate in journalism who covered the Bougainville crisis during a stint with AAP, said also that although the militants were armed with home-made weapons they resembled those "manufactured" on Bougainville during the crisis.

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

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