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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (September 29, 2000 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---Member of Parliament for Central Guadalcanal Walton Naezon has strongly condemned the shooting, burning, looting and harassing at Tenaru, east of Honiara, last weekend.

Mr. Naezon said the incident, which resulted in the death of an innocent youth, is an act by criminals that have no respect for the Cease-fire Agreement, let alone the peace process.

In a media statement yesterday, he condemned the Sogavare government for being responsible for the continuous killing and looting, and the harassing of business houses, Guadalcanal people and Solomon Islanders in Honiara.

Mr. Naezon is blaming the government because, he said, it continues to recognize and has legalized and employed members of the Malaita Eagle Force and members of the police who took part in the coup of 5 June.

The Central Guadalcanal MP also condemned the government for falsely assuring the Honiara populace, and both Solomon Islanders and overseas people, about the law and order situation in Honiara.

Mr. Naezon called on the government to admit that it has failed to address the situation, and must seek overseas help to restore confidence in investors in the country.

In response, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare reiterated his government's commitment to address the two-year old ethnic conflict and negotiate a widely acceptable peace agreement.

But Mr. Sogavare said his government has adopted a pragmatic and sensible peace plan on the principle of making justice before peace.

Mr. Sogavare revealed that Australia did not respond positively to the previous government's request for military intervention because the request did not follow protocols.

(Background: A cease-fire in Solomon Islands follows ethnic conflict which engulfed Guadalcanal, the island on which the capital, Honiara, is located. Peace talks started aboard a New Zealand navy ship off Honiara, and are due to continue in Cairns, Australia, next month. The ethnic conflict began when Guadalcanal militants tried to drive out settlers from another island, Malaita, claiming they dominated government and business and were taking over Guadalcanal land.

Honiara has been under the control of a joint operation of the Malaita Eagle Force militia and elements of the paramilitary police field force. The Guadalcanal countryside is largely under the control of Guadalcanal's Isatabu Freedom Movement militia.)

In other developments:

* A draft cease-fire agreement covering the area of Marau on East Guadalcanal has been drawn up for negotiations between the Are'Are speaking people at Marau and the Mbirao people.

Deputy Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza told SIBC they are now waiting on the two lawyers for Guadalcanal Province to study the draft agreement before a date for official talks could be finalized.

Mr. Kemakeza said the plan is to sail the Australian navy frigate, HMAS Newcastle, to Marau and hold the talks there.

The Are'Are speaking people of Marau were chased from the mainland during the ethnic tension and are now living on nearby islands.

The Cease-fire Agreement signed on August 2nd left the Marau issue to the Guadalcanal Provincial Government to sort out.

* About 900 public servants, both in the provinces and Honiara, are taking unpaid leave effective today.

Permanent Secretary, Special Duties, in the Prime Minister's Office, Casper Luiramo, said the unpaid leave for 890 workers is for an indefinite period and is a result of the government's severe cash flow problem.

The government is meeting the expenses of all public servants who have to transit in Honiara and is also paying them money in addition to their wages and salaries.

* The extended deadline for negotiation for the release of Solomon Airlines' hijacked pilot Captain Eric Rove and his plane lapses today.

The government requested that the deadline be extended to enable further talks with Isatabu Freedom Movement local commander Harold Keke and his militants to arrange for the release.

Captain Rove and his Britten Norman Islander aircraft have been held hostage by a faction led by Keke since Saturday, September 16.

The militants were reportedly demanding SI$ 2million (US$ 398,000) from the government for what they termed as injustices, and the government's slowness in dealing with the crisis.

* Most of the country's major exportable commodities have declined or were at a standstill over the past months except for the logging sector.

According to the Central Bank's July Economic Bulletin, fish catches were low in July following the closure of Solomon Taiyo's fishing operation, which resulted in a 16 percent decrease.

Coconut oil production in June recorded the lowest level for the past two years with only 371 tons nationally. The Bulletin said the reason is attributed to the delay in the collection of the copra to milling factories at Yandina and Noro.

Log production, based on export volumes, increased by more than 52,000 cubic meters, an increase of more than 34 percent. In the previous year, log exports totaled just over 15,000 cubic meters.

Meanwhile, the Central Bank has warned that the ethnic tension is having a negative impact on the country's economy as shown by the decline in nearly all export sectors.

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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