ISATABU FREEDOM MOVEMENT DOES NOT RECOGNIZE NEW SOLOMON ISLANDS GOVERNMENT

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (July 4, 2000 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---The Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM) does not recognize the Sogavare-led government and will not deal with or hold discussions with the new government, reports SIBC.

In a press statement the movement said it only recognizes and deals with a government elected without duress. IFM said until and unless such a government is elected, it refuses to discus with this government any matters relating to the current Guadalcanal crisis or the economic or political issues associated with it.

It appealed to international organizations and foreign governments not to recognize or deal with the Sogavare government because of the duress under which the prime minister was elected.

The IFM appealed particularly to the Australian and New Zealand governments and the Commonwealth Secretariat and the United Nations.

"It would be hypocritical on the part of foreign governments and international institutions to, on one hand, claim to uphold democratic principles and then recognize a prime minister elected under duress," said the IFM.

IFM added that any recognition of the prime minister elect would be a legitimization of the coup and the subsequent illegal actions of the MEF in Honiara.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said he wants to see cease-fire talks between the Isatabu Freedom Movement and the Malaita Eagle Force start this week.

This follows escalation in fighting between the two militant groups at both the eastern and western ends of Honiara after the kidnapping of two men from Malaita by the IFM last week. Prime Minister Sogavare said he is concerned about the escalation in fighting between the two groups and therefore would like to see cease-fire talks start as soon as possible.

He told SIBC it is important there is a cease-fire, and law and order is restored so that the Government could start talking with aid donors about assistance for compensation being demanded by the militant groups.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the new Ministry of National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace, Allan Kemakeza told SIBC this afternoon that he is trying to make contact with leaders of MEF and IFM so that arrangements could be made for cease-fire talks this week.

Former Opposition Leader Manasseh Sogavare was elected as the country's prime minister following the Andrew Nori-led Malaita Eagle Force coup of June 5, 2000 and the subsequent resignation of Bartholomew Ulufa'alu as the country's prime minister.

The IFM leadership views the intimidation which caused the members of Parliament to be absent from the parliamentary sitting as evidence of the MEF's part in placing under duress the democratic process. It said it will not accept the results of the election because to do so would be a mockery of the democratic principles and processes.

The IFM said its position is based on principle rather than a dislike of Manasseh Sogavare as Prime Minister. "It's the circumstances surrounding his election as Prime Minister that we refuse to accept," says the IFM. IFM says it's convinced that the election process was rigged by the MEF.

And, SIBC reports that there has been an escalation in clashes between the Isatabu Freedom Movement and the Malaita Eagles Force on both the eastern and western ends of Honiara. Residents in west Honiara have told SIBC there have been a lot of gunshots between the two groups over the past several days.

There has also been an increase in tension between the two militant groups in the Alligator Creek area, east of Honiara. SIBC has confirmed that the MEF is now using a bulldozer, which has been turned into a tank with several M-16's mounted on top of it.

It was converted into a tank by a local engineering firm.

And, due to the current tensions facing the Solomon Islands, the Asian Development Bank has suspended its assistance for the country's privatization project under the reform program pursued by the previous SIAC government.

In a letter to the former Finance Minister Alpha Kimata, acting team leader Bill Behrens said the suspension is due to the political turmoil and uncertainties in the country. However, Mr. Behrens confirmed that under the project, much has been achieved in the past 12 months.

He revealed that tender documents for the management contract for the Solomon Islands Electricity Authority were nearly completed.

The letter to suspend ADB assistance in the privatization project was made June 6th, a day after the prime minister was forced to resign and the raid of the police armory at Rove Police Headquarters by the Joint Operations.

And, in education news, the new government is determined that schools in the country start classes Monday next week, July 10, 2000. A press statement from the Department of Education and Human Resources Development said all education authorities and parents are being advised of the resumption of classes next Monday.

The Department also advised teachers to be at their respective posts before July 10.

Meanwhile, there have been doubts over schools resuming classes because of the ethnic tension, and the financial cash flow of the government.

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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