TENSION RISES IN HONIARA AMIDST REPORTS OF SPLIT IN JOINT OPERATION

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (September 3, 2000 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---Services at the national hospital's casualty department in Honiara were temporarily suspended on Saturday following harassment of staff.

A hospital spokesman said a brawl broke out in the hospital compound that resulted in serious injuries to a police officer on duty at the hospital, and damages to the hospital premises.

Royal Solomon Islands Police have been guarding the hospital since the earlier murder in the hospital of two wounded Isatabu Freedom Movement militia, allegedly by Malaitan militants.

Members of the joint operation of the Malaita Eagle Force and elements of the paramilitary police force were reported to be meeting over the latest problems.

It came amidst reports from Honiara residents that some members of the joint operation are now fighting among themselves.

Damage was also caused to the Honiara Central Police Station building and facilities. A police officer confirmed that one computer was damaged, a table over-turned and several exhibits destroyed.

Concerned Honiara residents have phoned in to SIBC News to say that a good part of town is now living in fear and confusion following recent developments between certain groups of the Malaita Eagle Force.

One concerned resident said they needed some kind of assurance from the authorities for their safety, especially for the children who might get caught in the crossfire.

The residents say said they were living in fear because members of the joint operation who are supposed to be looking after the capital are now fighting among themselves.

The Commissioner of Police, Morton Sireheti, was not prepared to talk on the issue when contacted by SIBC News.

(Background: A cease-fire in the Solomon Islands follows ethnic conflict that engulfed Guadalcanal. The capital, Honiara, has been under the control of the 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.)

The poor law and order situation is preventing overseas investment in the country, Member of Parliament for East Kwaio on Malaita, Alfred Sasako, said.

Mr. Sasako said the former government had approved a letter of intent by the Australian company Solsearch for mineral prospecting in eleven areas on Malaita.

But he said the poor law and order situation in the country is preventing the company from coming to the Solomon Islands to prospect for minerals on Malaita.

The General Secretary of the Development Services Exchange, the umbrella body for non-government organizations, Casper Fa'asala, appealed to all sectors of the community to cooperate with the government to bring back normalcy to the Solomon Islands.

He urged all organizations to pool their efforts and resources to work towards a common goal for the country.

Mr. Fa'asala said NGOs are planning a meeting this week with aid donors to identify the areas in which they can assist the various groups in the country implement rehabilitation programs.

Meanwhile, the first music album dedicated to peace will be launched in Honiara.

The album, "Let There Be Peace," by gospel rock band Revelation 22 will be launched by the Peace Working Committee.

Revelation 22 has given the NGO the rights to use the album for its peace initiatives through media and education projects for 12 months.

The album, which will be introduced on SIBC, was recorded and produced at the corporation's recording studios in Honiara.

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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