MALAITA EAGLE FORCE ON FIRING SPREE IN HONIARA

By Duran Angiki USP Journalism Graduate

GIZO, Solomon Islands (Sept. 13, 2000 – Wantok Press/Pasifik Nius)---Angry Malaita Eagle Force militia went on a firing spree in front of the Solomon Islands Ministry of Peace and Reconciliation in downtown Honiara yesterday.

The incident took place at about 12 noon. It was apparently caused by the government’s delay in getting an undisclosed payment for the rebels, who responded by opening fire outside the office.

A government spokesperson said angry armed MEF militia went on the firing spree, scaring the public and forcing staff of the peace office to duck for cover.

After the shooting outside the building, located opposite the former Guadalcanal provincial headquarters in downtown Honiara, militia members entered the building and threatened staff.

The government workers in the newly established office were scared, with most of the women crying and many staff fleeing the office.

The Solomon Islands government and the MEF leadership yesterday both failed to condemn the criminals' action.

The government spokesman said the MEF Central Commander, known locally as "Rasta," led the armed militiamen.

Over the weekend, MEF members ransacked the residence of the Secretary of the Solomon Islands Civilians committee, Mathew Wale.

A close associate of the family confirmed yesterday that armed Malaitans entered the property of the local accountant and stole all his family belongings.

The militia carried out the looting while Wale and his wife and two children watched helplessly.

The family friend said Wale was targeted by the MEF because of his active role in the recently held Solomon Islands Civilian Society’s forum aboard the New Zealand navy frigate Te Kaha.

An unarmed police officer yesterday said the biggest problem facing the commanders of the MEF in controlling criminals was that they were all guilty of daily looting in Honiara.

He said neutral police officers also were scared to take any action against MEF criminals in Honiara because they were not armed.

In a similar incident, members of the Guadalcanal militants group, the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM), allegedly shot dead a teenager on board the MV Garau.

A passenger who was traveling to Yandina, in the Russell islands, said the boat was shot at near the coastal village of Visale.

Visale is a Catholic mission station on the west coast of Guadalcanal, located about 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Honiara. Recently, the MEF attacked the mission station’s clinic and shot dead an elderly man and a young boy.

The eyewitness said the vessel was cruising very close to the shore, giving passengers a clear view of the remains of burned houses along the coast, when the shooting took place.

The elderly man was in his thigh and the teenager was hit in the neck, which immediately forced the vessel to turn back, just as it passed Visale.

In the most recent MEF attack on the coastal villages of northwest Guadalcanal, the MEF militia burned down entire villages, using speedboats, the MV Daola and a landing barge to carry out the raids.

Title -- 2966 SOLOMON IS: MEF militia go on firing spree in Honiara Date -- 13 September 2000 Byline -- Duran Angiki Origin -- Pasifik Nius

Source -- Wantok Press, angiki_dp@solomon.com.sb,  12/9/00 Copyright -- USP Journalism Status -- Unabridged

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