HONIARA, Solomon Islands (August 31, 2000 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---The Solomon Islands peace talks planned for today have been rescheduled for next Tuesday.

The initial talks originally were scheduled for Monday of this week.

The Ministry of National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace said the meeting has been delayed to allow further consultations among the parties to the conflict on Guadalcanal.

Peace talks were planned to start on board the New Zealand frigate Te Kaha, where Deputy Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza has been meeting with Guadalcanal Provincial Government representatives and commanders of the Isatabu Freedom Movement.

(Background: A cease-fire in the Solomon Islands follows ethnic conflict which engulfed Guadalcanal. The capital, Honiara, has been 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:

* The Joint Operation of the Malaita Eagle Force and paramilitary police elements has expressed disappointment at recommendations by a National Peace Conference organized by the Solomon Islands Christian Association (SICA).

In a letter to the chairman of the association, Eric Takila, Joint Operation spokesman Andrew Nori said they have been concerned about the condemnation against them for the breakdown of law and order in Honiara. They were also unhappy with the conference's recommendation that they pay compensation for losses and damage to properties in Honiara since June 5.

He said they're offended by the recommendations' lack of sensitivity on matters that are critical to current peace initiatives.

Mr. Nori said this has highlighted the state of self-interest that continues to cloud genuine efforts for lasting peace in the country, adding that leaders of the conference have little to contribute to the peace process.

The Joint Operation, he said, is also saddened that the conference had passed judgment on them without giving them any chance to explain their position.

Mr. Nori said that the demand for them to pay compensation was a slap in the face of the members of the Joint Operation, adding if they don't take part in the talks then Takila's group must solve the mess the country is faced with.

When contacted by SIBC News about the letter, Reverend Takila, said he would need to discuss the matter with the SICA organizing group before he would comment on the statement by the Joint Operation.

* A Honiara businessman, Y. Sato, suggested that the law and order situation in Honiara would return to normal until all arms and ammunitions are surrendered to the appropriate authorities.

Mr. Sato said this as criminal activities, including armed men entering and stealing from businesses, continue on a daily basis in Honiara.

He said all arms and ammunition must be returned. Then the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force would be able to effectively carry out its duties of maintaining law and order in the capital.

Mr. Sato said both political and community leaders from Malaita and Guadalcanal should work harder to solve the current ethnic tension instead of trying to bring in a foreign force.

* Students at the Chung Wah School were among customers who were in a shop in China Town, Honiara, yesterday afternoon when armed men walked in to demand cash from the shop owner.

An owner of the shop told SIBC that seven men wearing green clothing and carrying one gun entered the shop and demanded cash.

She said they took off with about SI$ 3,000 (US$ 600) and some goods.

The shop closed its doors after the incident.

Several other shops in the city have decided to stay closed because of the increase in armed robberies in the capital during the past several days.

* Minister of Agriculture and Primary Industries Moon Pin Kwan has requested an apology from PAOA FM radio station because of a news item saying militants had entered his residential area demanding one of his vehicles.

Mr. Kwan, who's the MP for Central Honiara, said the story is not true and at no time did members of the militant groups threatened him or his properties.

But PAOA FM news editor Daly Oso told SIBC the station stands by its story and that the news item never mentioned militants as stated in Mr. Kwan's statement but it was an armed man who entered the Minister's residential area demanding one of his vehicles.

* Some standard six students on Guadalcanal may not take the Secondary School Entrance Examination today.

The Education Officer responsible for Guadalcanal Province, Gad Sauanuku, told SIBC that 62 schools in the province were supposed to take part.

But he said the ethnic tension and other issues relating to the unrest have affected the number of schools and students sitting for the examinations.

* The Miss Solomon Islands Pageant 2000 has been cancelled.

The Pageant Organizing Committee announced that the event has been cancelled because of the current situation on Guadalcanal.

The committee said a lot of people had left Honiara, including among them supporters and potential participants.

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: 

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