ARMED MEN HIJACK SOL TAIYO BOAT

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By Duran Angiki

GIZO, Solomon Islands (July 28, 2000 – Wantok Press)---Three armed men of Malaita ethnic origin hijacked a Japanese fishing boat belonging to the Solomon Taiyo fishing company in Western Province and took it to Honiara yesterday.

The hijacker took control of Soltai 68 on Wednesday night at Bili passage near the port of Bunikalo, Marovo lagoon, in Western Province.

A spokesman for the Western Provincial Police confirmed the incident and said an investigation had been carried out to determine the reason for the hijack.

But he said a preliminary finding indicated that the three-militia men took the action claiming that their lives were in great danger in Western Province.

Police warned that such an action would only further strain the already tense relationship between the people of Western Province and Malaitans in the province.

Two nights prior to the hijack, an armed group raided a house in Noro Township and got away with 400,000 Japanese yen and other valuable items.

The police spokesman revealed that a similar hold-up had also taken place at the Solomon Islands former capital, Tulagi, in Central Province, early this week.

He said reports confirmed that a group, allegedly of the MEF, raided a Tulagi fuel depot at gunpoint and stole 44-gallon drums of petrol and a small boat.

The spokesman said during the hijack at Marovo lagoon, two crew of the fishing boat escaped and alerted the authorities and the company about it.

The fishing boat arrived in Honiara at about 9:00 a.m. and was escorted by one of the country’s patrol boats, currently held by the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF), to the Honiara Wharf.

MEF leader Andrew Nori yesterday disassociated his members from the hijackers.

He said the MEF had no knowledge of the three-armed men and did not know the motive of the hijack.

A spokesman for the Solomon Taiyo fishing company at the Western Province industrial town of Noro said the company was greatly concerned over such criminal action.

He claimed that the hijackers, who were armed with three high-powered guns, boarded and took control of the fishing vessel with her 30-men crew onboard and forced the skipper at gunpoint to travel to Honiara.

Among the crew who were taken hostage by the hijackers were two Japanese and a Filipino, who were reported yesterday to be safe but in a state of shock.

He said following the incident yesterday, the company recalled all its fishing fleet of 20 boats back to Noro base.

Meanwhile, the troubled peace talks in the Solomon Islands between the two warring factions, the Malaita Eagle Force and Isatabu Freedom Movement, had again chopped another blow.

The three most wanted commanders of the IFM, Harold Keke, Joseph Sangu and George Grey refused to attend the talks, forcing the meeting into a further delay.

Solomon Islands government Deputy Prime Minister Alan Kemakeza said the government and the militants groups had agreed on the delay.

He said this was to give the government time to try and persuade the commanders to attend the peace talks.

The government revealed yesterday that the three IFM commanders had refused to attend the peace talks citing security reasons, although police had assured their safety.

In early 1998, Harold Keke and Joseph Sangu, escaped Solomon Islands police custody after they were release on bail on charges of possessing arms without licenses and attempted murder.

Title -- 2871 SOLOMON IS: Armed men hijack Sol Taiyo boat Date -- 28 July 2000 Byline – None Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Wantok Press, angiki_dp@solomon.com.sb, 28/7/00 Copyright – WP Status -- Unabridged

 

SOLOMONS MEF MILITIA DENIES RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIJACK

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (July 28, 2000 – Radio Australia)---The Malaita Eagle Force militia group in the Solomon Islands has denied responsibility for the hijacking yesterday of a Japanese fishing boat.

The boat was hijacked in Western Province and the crew forced to take three armed men to Honiara.

They claimed to be members of the Malaita Eagle Force and said their lives were in danger.

The MEF denies its members were involved, but Solomon Islands police are investigating the incident.

Meanwhile, there's been no announcement yet on whether cease-fire negotiations between the militias will resume today as planned.

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

 

CONTINUING CONFLICT HURTING SOLOMON ISLANDS BUSINESS

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (July 27, 2000 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---Long time Honiara businessman Y. Sato says the resumption of cease-fire talks today is crucial for the future of businesses in the capital.

He said a lot of businesses have been watching the talks between the Malaita Eagle Force and Isatabu Freedom Movement and if no cease-fire agreement is reached soon then some will have to close.

Mr. Sato predicted that if nothing is done now then it will take at least a year for most businesses in Honiara to recover from the effects of the ethnic crisis.

Mr. Sato - who owns businesses in Honiara and Gizo - said that his sales in the Western Province are normal but there has been a 60 percent drop in the capital.

(Background: Efforts are continuing to get the warring Guadalcanal and Malaitan militia forces to declare a cease-fire in the ethnic conflict engulfing Guadalcanal for the past 19 months. The capital, Honiara, is under the control of a joint operation of the Malaita Eagle Force and elements of the paramilitary police field force. The Guadalcanal countryside is largely under the control of Guadalcanal's Isatabu Freedom Movement. The ethnic conflict began when Guadalcanal militants began trying to drive out Malaitans, claiming they dominated government and business and were taking over Guadalcanal land.)

In other developments:

* Offers of help by Australia and New Zealand to the Solomon Islands are seen as recognition of the new government of Manasseh Sogavareh.

Deputy Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza said there's been positive response from the two countries, which have indicated they want to participate in compensation and rehabilitation efforts.

* North Malaita Member of Parliament Enele Kwanairara has been forced to part with his constituency's $20,000 peace money.

Yesterday some members of the Malaita Eagle Force from North Malaita Constituency went to the MP's house and demanded the $20,000.

A spokesman for the group, Andrew Tonawane, told SIBC news that they demanded money for comments made by Mr. Kwanairara on national radio.

Mr. Kwanairara had raised concerns that families of members of Malaita Eagle Force members from North Malaita are facing difficulties while their husbands or fathers are taking part in the joint operation on Guadalcanal.

The MP had also appealed to the national government and the Malaita Eagle Force Command to address those concerns.

But a spokesman for the North Malaita members of the Malaita Eagle Force claims the comments by MP Kwanairara show disrespect to them and their part in the joint operation.

* The Government plans to re-constitute the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force under a new Commissioner.

This is contained in a paper on the government's position on cease-fire negotiations between the Isatabu Freedom Movement and the Malaita Eagle Force.

The paper did not elaborate on how the Police Force will be re-constituted but it says 100 personnel selected from the joint paramilitary Malaita Eagle Force operation, which mounted a near coup on June 5th, will assist with law and order as an interim measure.

These personnel will be given specific tasks such as retrieving stolen property, dealing with dissidents and ensuring that unemployed youth are sent back to their respective provinces.

Some members of the Police Field Force, the Rapid Response Unit, the Regular Police and the Prison Service joined the June 5th operations, which led to toppling of the SIAC Government.

The Police Force has been without a Commissioner since New Zealander Riri Rangihika went overseas for medical treatment before June 5th. The government is yet to decide whether to take him back.

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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