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By Duran Angiki

GIZO, Solomon Islands (August 9, 2000 – Wantok Press/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---More political trouble has erupted in the Solomon Islands as the eastern outer islands of the country, Temotu Province, declared a state government yesterday.

The move by Temotu comes within a month of Western Province’s declaration as a state government on July 7.

This new political development in the Solomons had added a new dimension to the current ethnic conflict that is ripping apart the nation and a ceasefire which has failed to stop militants’ fighting.

A Solomon Islands government spokesman yesterday confirmed that the Prime Minister’s Office was trying to save the ceasefire between the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) and the Isatabu Freedom Movement.

But he said a shootout yesterday at Kakabona village, 12 kilometers (7.2 miles) west of Honiara, at about 10:00 a.m., in which an MEF member was shot dead by the rival IFM militia, had ended any hope of reviving the agreement.

A spokesman for the Solomon Islands police said the situation in Honiara has now gone back to what it was before the signing of the ceasefire three days ago.

More looting and confiscating of innocent people’s vehicles and private properties by MEF members in and around town have been reported but nothing can be done about it.

The spokesman said the MEF’s continuing violation of the terms and conditions of the ceasefire had forced more people to flee Honiara and return to their provincial homes.

He confirmed that the ceasefire had been faulty from day one because of the non-compliance of the MEF to uphold law and order in Honiara.

Now the IFM has crashed any hope of making it work.

While the ceasefire failed to curtail criminal activities in Honiara by MEF militiamen, the government also has had to deal with the political divisions threatening to break up the country.

Reports from the headquarters of the most eastern province of Temotu, Lata, said the decision by the province to become a ‘State Government’ had been strongly influenced by a number of factors.

Prominent among them was the people’s displease over the ethnic conflicts on Guadalcanal, which had badly disrupted all services to the former province.

Additionally, was the victimization and displacement of about 10,000 Temotu people from Honiara that was caused by the ethnic Malaitans’ criminal activities.

And thirdly, was the province’s displeasure over its annual contribution of US$ 250,000 to the national government, of which only US$ 5,000 has been given as a grant back to the province.

The reports said the full assembly of the new state had decided that Temotu would, as of yesterday, be a Free Association State of the Solomon Islands.

According to the reports, the new state has warned that if the government fails to recognize its new political status within a year, then it would declare itself an independent nation.

The reports said the more than 25,000 people in the new state, which shares a maritime border with Vanuatu, strongly supported the decision.

But the government’s problem are not only restricted to the new developments in Temotu Province and the failing apart of the ceasefire between the warring parties on Guadalcanal.

Over the weekend, the new ‘State’ of Western Solomons told a delegation from the Honiara-based central government to leave the state following a row over grant money.

A Western Solomons spokesman said the state only allowed the delegation to proceed with its tour yesterday after it finally paid SI$ 3million (US$ 597,000).

He said the money was owed to the former Western Province by the central government since last year.

Following the payment of the money, the government delegation proceeded with its tour, aimed at easing tension in the province against Malaitans.

Since the declaration of Western Province as a state, the government had been unsuccessfully trying to send a delegation to negotiate with the former province.

Title -- 2892 SOLOMON IS: Temotu declares state government Date -- 9 August 2000 Byline -- Duran Angiki Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Wantok Press, [email protected], 9/8/00

Copyright – WP Status -- Unabridged

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