FEARS FOR SOLOMONS STUDENTS FOLLOWING KILLING OF PNG MAN

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (July 19, 2000 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---Twenty Solomon Islands students and their families have left Goroka University for Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea as a safety precaution.

It follows the killing of a Papua New Guinea man in the Solomon Islands, reportedly by Malaita Eagle Force militia.

Speaking from Goroka, Vice President of the Solomon Islands Students Association at the University, Selwyn Kole, told SIBC the decision to leave followed advice from the Pro-Vice Chancellor.

The advice was issued following consultation with the Solomon Islands' High Commissioner in Port Moresby, in view of media reports of the killing over the weekend of a PNG man at Kakabona, west of Honiara

Mr. Kole said the Pro-Vice Chancellor had advised them that their security was not guaranteed and, therefore, it was necessary that they leave Goroka University.

Meanwhile, he said the students are appealing to young people and militants in the Solomon Islands to respect the government and other leaders in the community and allow them to resolve the situation.

He said recent developments are now affecting Solomon Islands students and the relationships between the Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands governments.

The Solomon Islands government has expressed its sorrow for last Saturday's incident.

A statement from the Foreign Affairs Department said there have been negotiations with the PNG High Commission in Honiara and others about the burial of the body.

The government, however, has expressed much concern over the safety of Solomon Islands nationals in Papua New Guinea and has been negotiating a compensation package for the relatives of the PNG national who was killed.

Details about the compensation have not been disclosed.

The government has dispatched a diplomatic message to the PNG government about the safety of Solomon Islanders there.

(Background: The Isatabu Freedom Movement from Guadalcanal Island and the Malaita Eagle Force from Malaita Island have been fighting an escalating war on Guadalcanal. It follows 19 months of ethnic conflict that began when Guadalcanal militants began trying to drive out Malaitans, claiming they dominated government and business and were taking over Guadalcanal land. A joint operation by the Malaita Eagle Force and elements of the Police Field Force now controls the capital, Honiara.)

Government officials are now putting the final touches to what is understood to be a draft ceasefire agreement that will be put to the Malaita Eagle Force and the Isatabu Freedom Movement at talks this week.

(UPDATE: ABC Australia: Solomons Militias Agree To Ceasefire During Negotiations)

SIBC understands the draft ceasefire agreement was considered at length during a full day's meeting of the Security Council in Honiara yesterday.

Deputy Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza told SIBC the Security Council will reconvene tomorrow morning to consider and approve what the officials have put together.

Mr. Kemakeza will also be able to announce the date for ceasefire talks.

He said it is definite that ceasefire talks will be held this week.

In other recent developments:

* The Malaita Eagles Force is not permitting any Catholic clergy to take part in any future ceasefire or peace talks.

This is because the MEF claims that many members of the church's clergy have been aiding and harboring members of the Isatabu Freedom Movement

MEF leader Andrew Nori said the recent discovery at Makina, in East Guadalcanal of a Catholic priest being in possession of homemade weapons and kabilatos was proof of this suspicion.

He said between April 1998 and September 1999 many Malaitans were killed and raped by members of the IFM and none of these were condemned by the church to the same degree it is now condemning the actions of the MEF.

Mr. Nori said complaints by Catholic Archbishop Adrian Smith that he was stopped twice by MEF members manning check-points from carrying out pastoral visits is hypocritical and these trips are seen as visits to enemy territories to provide moral support to those who have no time for peace.

Because of this he said the neutrality of the church remains doubtful and provoking.

* General Secretary of the Development Services Exchange, Casper Fa'asala, reiterated that one way of solving the social unrest in the country is to provide employment opportunities in the rural areas.

Speaking in an interview with SIBC, Mr. Fa'asala said non-government organizations are cooperating to help the government address development in the provinces.

He said DSE is planning to set up offices in the provinces to co-ordinate the programs and activities of its various member NGOs.

Mr. Fa'asala stressed the need to build more rural training centers in the provinces to enable young people to acquire skills that would be useful to them and their communities.

He called on all authorities to cooperate to provide an environment in rural areas where young people can fulfill their potential for the good of their communities and the country.

Mr. Fa'asala added that DSE plans to open an NGO office in the Malaita provincial capital, Auki, next month to address rural development in the province.

* Solomon Airlines resumed its international flights yesterday with the first one touching down at Henderson Airport from Brisbane at midday.

This was the airline's first international flight since the attempted coup on June 5th.

Solomon Airlines is using an Air Vanuatu aircraft as Qantas refused to allow its leased aircraft to fly to Henderson International Airport because of the fighting between the IFM and MEF east of Honiara.

The airline said the Brisbane-Honiara-Brisbane flight was fully booked.

It is looking at increasing the once a week flight to two a week with the use of an aircraft from another airline.

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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