GUADALCANAL MILITANTS AGREE TO LAY DOWN ARMS

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (July 23, 1999 – PACNEWS/Solomons Star)---Guadalcanal militants have agreed to lay down their arms and remain inactive while the Government addresses their demands.

The Government of Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa’alu has promised the militants that it would address their demands if they abide by the Honiara Peace Accord brokered by Commonwealth Special Envoy and former Prime Minister of Fiji Sitiveni Rabuka.

The militants, who call themselves the Isatambu Freedom Fighters, have presented eight demands to the Government.

Their priority demand is for all Malaitans to be repatriated from Guadalcanal provincial land. The Government, in reply, said the repatriation of Malaitans, who have been displaced from their Guadalcanal land as a result of ethnic unrest during the last six months, is almost completed. The project is being supervised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The militants also called for a major restructuring of the Police Force and the removal of Commissioner Frank Short and his deputy, Morton Sireheti, who is a Malaitan. According to the militants, they have lost confidence in the Police Force, which they claim appeared to have acted unfairly against Guadalcanal’s people during the unrest.

Commissioner Short retired this week after rejecting a Government offer to renew his contract. A former Police Commissioner of Auckland, New Zealand now is negotiating with the Solomon Islands Government for the top police job.

The militants also want the Police Force to reduce their activities in Guadalcanal province and to lift some of the roadblocks.

Another major demand of the militants is for Guadalcanal to become a state, with a state government. The national Government said this was being addressed through a Committee, which is visiting provincial authorities to determine their views. The Government expects to have the Committee's report before the November session of Parliament gets under way.

The militants have elected to drop their demand for amnesty.

SOLOMON ISLANDS GOVERNMENT DENIES LOSING CONTROL OVER MOST OF GUADALCANAL

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (July 23, 1999 – PACNEWS)---The Solomon Islands government says it has not lost control over most of the island of Guadalcanal to the Isatambu Freedom Fighters.

Since the outbreak of ethnic violence between Guadalcanal militants and settlers from neighboring Malaita, the government has only controlled the capital, Honiara. Roadblocks have been set up at the eastern and western entrances to the town, beyond which militants are in charge.

Minister of State Alfred Sasako said the government has not lost control, but simply doesn't want to inflame the situation while negotiations continue.

"I don't think that we are looking at, you know, control here. Basically you are looking at creating an environment conducive to reaching a peaceful settlement.

"I think what needs to be understood is that the government has the power to do what is necessary, but we do not want to do it, or to engage in activities or actions that might be misconstrued as being counterproductive," Sasako said.

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