FIJI'S RABUKA URGES AMNESTY FOR GUADALCANAL MILITANTS

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (June 24, 1999 - PACNEWS)---The Commonwealth Secretary General’s special envoy to the Solomon Islands, former Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, believes there could be as many as 20,000 young men willing to fight in the Guadalcanal guerrilla army against Malaita islanders.

The current Chairman of Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs said the only solution to the inter-island conflict is a political one and he will be urging the Solomon Islands Government to grant the militants amnesty.

Rabuka said he was impressed by the organization and discipline of a group of militants he met yesterday in the bush near the Balasuna River, east of Honiara.

"They feel that there are about 20,000 young men.

"I can easily believe that because that’s a very small group that we went to yesterday - 200 of them - and their leader said he’s got 10 groups like that under his command, these young men," Rabuka said.

Rabuka is hoping to meet with the two leaders of the Isatambu Freedom Fighters to try to convince them to meet with the Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Bartholomew Ulufa'alu, either Friday (June 25) or Saturday (June 26).

In another development, the Fiji Government announced it would not recall its High Commissioner in London, after concerns were raised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over a breach of protocol by Filimone Jitoko.

Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Tupeni Baba said today that the issue has been resolved.

"Jitoko only facilitated the requests of the Commonwealth Secretary General and we are happy with his explanation," Dr. Baba said.

Yesterday, Rabuka reacted to the Fiji Government’s concern about his appointment saying it was the prerogative of the Secretary General to choose who he wants to represent him in a crisis situation.

He said the Fiji Government has nothing to do with his appointment.

"I understand their feeling. I think for them it’s a matter of pride. I am here representing the Commonwealth Secretary General and not as a representative of the Fiji Government."

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