MILITANT GROUP ISSUES ULTIMATUM TO SOLOMON ISLANDS GOVERNMENT

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (January 31, 2000 – Radio Australia)---A newly formed rebel group in the Solomon Islands has given the government 90 days to pay US$ 14 million in compensation for damages resulting from last year's ethnic tension on Guadalcanal Island.

The group, the Malaita Eagles Force, came to prominence after claiming responsibility for a raid on a police armory earlier this month during which a truckload of rifles, ammunition and other weapons were stolen.

The group did not say precisely the consequences would be if the money was not paid, but officials assume there could be retaliation and renewed violence over the loss of jobs and land to indigenous people – and the loss of relatives’ lives -- on the capital island.

Radio Australia correspondent George Atkin reports:

"Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa‘alu says the government has already spent millions of dollars on rehabilitating displaced people as a result of the tension.

"He says the government has also spent millions of dollars to ensure police operations continue on Guadalcanal.

"Mr. Ulufa‘alu says his government is not neglecting the idea of compensating people who've lost their relatives and properties in the Guadalcanal ethnic uprising.

"He says on properties, a committee has been formed to assess their values and on hostages, another committee has been formed which is chaired by the Catholic Arch Bishop Adrian Smith.

"George Atkin, Radio Australia, Honiara."

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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