PREACHER CHALLENGES MILITANTS IN GIZO

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By Duran Angiki USP Journalism Graduate

GIZO, Solomon Islands (Sept. 20, 2000 - Wantok Press/Pasifik Nius)---A church pastor yesterday publicly challenged Guadalcanal people in Gizo, saying Western Solomons' people will take revenge if Guadalcanal militants fail to release Captain Eric Rove.

Captain Eric Rove is from the Roviana area in the Western Solomons, which shares a maritime border with the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville.

"You fala man long Gwalekana must harem that if pilot blong mefala hem no release by tomorrow (Wednesday) 5:00 p.m., babae mefala kam and tekem head blong you fala off." ("Guadalcanal people should understand that if the pilot is not released by 5:00 p.m. tomorrow, we will come and take all your heads off").

Pastor Joseph Douglas Alamu made the bold challenge in front of a large crowd yesterday afternoon at the entrance of the Gizo Hotel, opposite the town market.

Gizo town has become a safe heaven for displaced Solomon Islanders who fled the national capital, Honiara, after the Malaita Eagle Force coup on June 5th that caused a total breakdown in law and order.

The increasing population of the town, which now hosts about 15,000 working class nationals from Honiara, includes a large number of ethnic Guadalcanal people.

The militants' hijacking of the nine-seater Norman Islander with its pilot on Saturday is of great concern to the ethnic Guadalcanal community in the Western Solomons.

While the pastor watched, another middle-aged man screamed: "You fala long Gwale should respectim people blong Western." (Guadalcanal people should respect people from the Western Solomons).

The open challenge attracted the crowd in front of the hotel, which is located about 50 meters away from the western end of the state police headquarters.

Several police officers, a number of European tourists and a few executive members of the Western Solomons government administration were among the onlookers.

A breakaway faction of the Guadalcanal militants group, the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM), has held the Solomon Airlines aircraft and its pilot captive since Saturday.

The Solomon Islands National Security Council, which had been given the task of negotiating the release of the aircraft and the pilot, failed to settle the matter by yesterday’s 11:00 a.m. deadline.

Government Information Unit Director Alfred Maesulia said the government yesterday sent members of the Melanesian Brotherhood to negotiate with the militants.

This was because the militants' commander, Harold Keke, made it clear from the start that he would only negotiate with members of the Melanesian Church Brotherhood on the issue.

He said the letter that contained the militants' compensation demand of SI$ 2 million did not mention anything about the pilot.

A spokesman for the Guadalcanal militants who spoke on a two-way radio on Monday claimed that the militiamen were not interested in holding on to the pilot.

He said Keke had already arranged transportation to take Captain Rove to a destination where the Melanesian Brotherhood representatives would pick him up to return home.

Title -- 2994 SOLOMON IS: Preacher challenges militants in Gizo Date -- 20 September 2000 Byline -- Duran Angiki Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Wantok Press, angiki_dp@solomon.com.sb, 19/9/00 Copyright -- WP Status -- Unabridged

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