SOLOMON ISLANDERS HOPING FOR CEASE-FIRE

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (July 20, 2000 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation /PINA Nius Online)---Solomon Islanders have been urged to rally in support for a cease-fire agreement to halt a further decline in the country's economy and the well being of the citizenry.

Solomon Airlines General Manager Gideon Zoloveke, Jr. called on the government, the militia groups and the people of the Solomon Islands to ensure that a cease-fire is implemented.

He made the call following the resumption of Solomon Airlines' international services on Tuesday with a Brisbane-Honiara-Brisbane flight. The airline previously flew to Brisbane, Sydney, Port Vila and Nadi, bringing in tourists and business people to the Solomons.

Zoloveke said the resumption of service went well with 80 to 90 passengers arriving and leaving the country.

However, he said the services had been restored using an Air Vanuatu Boeing 737 with an insurance cover worth $465,000, an additional and significant cost to the airline's normal lease expenses. Qantas – which previously leased a jet to Solomon Airlines - has declined to allow it to be used because of the continuing ethnic fighting on Guadalcanal.

Zoloveke said if the insurance rate persists over the next few weeks this will affect the flights.

Zoloveke added that flights could be cancelled unless costs are passed on to passengers.

He said the London insurance market does not wish to reduce or withdraw the rates until a formal cease-fire agreement is reached.

(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.)

Meanwhile, efforts to end the 20-month old ethnic tension on Guadalcanal take another step forward with cease-fire talks between the Malaita Eagle Force and Isatabu Freedom Movement set for today onboard the Australian Navy ship, the HMAS Tobruk.

The talks, to be co-chaired by Sir Peter Kenilorea and Paul Tovua, will start at 11:00 a.m. are due to end with the signing of a cease-fire agreement on Saturday morning.

Deputy Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza, who has been working to get the rival forces to the talks, said the two militant groups have agreed to send their commanders.

The Premier of Malaita, David Oeta, and Guadalcanal Premier Ezekiel Alebua also will attend. There will also be one chief each from Malaita and Guadalcanal.

There will also be representatives from the Solomon Islands Christian Association, NGO's, women, the Chamber of Commerce and other races resident in Honiara.

Deputy Prime Minister Kemakeza will lead the Government's delegation, which will include five other Ministers, their Permanent Secretaries, the Attorney General Primo Afeau, Acting Commissioner of Police John Homelo, and Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Sam Alasia.

SIBC understands the Government will be proposing to the two militant groups pre-conditions for a cease-fire and areas it wants to be included in the cease-fire agreement.

The pre-conditions and areas to be included in the cease-fire agreement have not been made public.

Meanwhile, the Solomon Islands Christian Association has called on Christians in the country to pray, and those who can, to fast for the cease-fire talks.

In other news:

* The Solomon Islands Red Cross Society has secured half of this year's budget allocation with the donation of more than half a million dollars from the Republic of China (Taiwan).

The President of Solomon Islands Red Cross Society, Moon Pin Kwan, revealed that this year's budget allocation is one million dollars, of which half has been met by the Republic of China (Taiwan).

Speaking at the handing over ceremony at the Sea-King Restaurant, Ambassador of the Republic of China P.Y. Teng revealed that the half a million dollars was a contribution from various charity organizations in Taiwan.

This is the third time the Republic of China has contributed in kind and in cash to the Solomon Islands Red Cross since May of this year.

Mr. Teng said the contribution is in response to his government's request to provide assistance in alleviating the Solomon Islands crisis through the Red Cross.

The President of the Solomon Islands Red Cross Society, Mr. Kwan, said the money will be used to help families affected by the ethnic tension and those wanting to return home.

He thanked the various charity organizations, through the Taiwanese embassy in Honiara.

The handing over of the more than half a million dollars was also witnessed by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and other government officers.

* The four Guadalcanal MPs in the government called on all Guadalcanal people to support the province and national governments' efforts to reach a cease-fire.

The parliamentarians, Johnson Koli, Tommy Chan, David Vouza and Hilda Kari, said its only when peace is restored that services and social facilities needed by the people in the rural areas will be met.

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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