HONIARA, Solomon Islands (June 23, 2000 – Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---About two-thirds of the staff at the Ministry of Education will go on unpaid leave, reports SIBC.

The Ministry has 99 staff and 69 of them are ready to go. Under Secretary in the Ministry Moffat Behulu, however, says that all teaching staff have not been affected, as schools in the country will continue their classes.

Meanwhile, the ministry is uncertain about whether it will be able to provide funds to send government-sponsored students back to tertiary institutions in Fiji, where a hostage crisis there had forced the Honiara government to recall its students.

Government foots the bill of 214 students there and the only thing certain now is that only 58 others sponsored by New Zealand and Australia will return in time before classes resume.

Meanwhile, the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation will reduce its broadcasting hours effective Monday, June 26th.

The Board endorsed the decision to reduce broadcast hours because of financial difficulties caused by the current security and political crisis.

General Manager Johnson Honimae said the cut back in air time and sending staff on early leave and later on unpaid leave are part of measures to ensure the corporation continues its services during these difficult times.

As of Monday, the national service Radio Hapi Isles, WAN FM and Radio Happy Lagoon in Western Province will cut back on their hours of broadcast. Radio Happy Isles will start broadcasts at 6:00 a.m. each day instead of 5:30 a.m. and close at 10:00 p.m. instead of 12 midnight. The WAN FM service will operate each day from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and then resume services from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Radio Happy Lagoon at Gizo will broadcast local programs from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Monday to Friday and relay the national service for the rest of the time.

Radio Hapi Lagoon will no longer broadcast on Saturday mornings.

Despite cuts in broadcast hours, the General Manager Mr. Honimae said SIBC will continue to broadcast important program such as news, current affairs and sponsored programs.

He said the corporation expects to return to normal hours once the financial situation in the country improves.

In order for that financial situation to improve, resolution of the political crisis is required. Leaders of the Malaita Eagle Force and the Isatabu Freedom Movement are meeting this Sunday to discuss a cease fire, reports SIBC.

Malaita Eagle Force spokesman Andrew Nori confirmed this after an earlier meeting held on Tuesday. The meeting on board a landing craft five kilometers (three miles) off Alligator Creek was attended by IFM's Henry Tobani and Mr. Nori.

Mr. Nori described the exploratory meeting as the best and the most important held so far in relation to achieving peace. He said that there were no terms or conditions exchanged in the meeting but they are working towards that.

Mr. Nori said he exchanged information, and discussed issues and ironed out existing doubts with Mr. Tobani. He said after the meeting there is now respect and understanding of each other's position.

And SIBC reports that Members of Parliament from Makira Island have said they won't attend the coming Parliament meeting unless their security is guaranteed.

In a letter to the Speaker of Parliament, Paul Tovua, and signed by West and Central Makira MPs, Japhet Waipora and Jackson Sunaone, they said unless they are absolutely sure of their safety and freedom to exercise a clear conscience to chose a new leader, they won't attend next week's meeting.

The MPs said they want a Parliament meeting that adheres to the principles of democracy and the requirements of the Solomon Islands constitution.

On a positive note, Australia is giving more than AUS$ 3 million (US$ 1,792,500) to the Solomon Islands.

More than AUS$ 2.3 million (US$ 1,374,250) of the help will go the International Committee of the Red Cross for the Red Cross to assist both sides of the conflict.

The Red Cross is working to maintain medical services, provide protection for detainees and deliver shelter and food to displaced people.

The remaining sum of more AUS$ 750,000 (US$ 448,125) will be used to supply basic medicines in response to an urgent request from the Solomon Islands government.

In announcing the assistance, Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said his country is ready to provide substantial support to make a peace settlement work.

He said this support has been made in response to the serious economic consequences of the current situation and to re-establish government and police capacity.

For additional reports from the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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