HONIARA POWER SCARE OVER, SAYS ELECTRICITY BOSS

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (October 5, 2000 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---Fears of an electricity shutdown in the capital, Honiara, are over. General Manager of the Solomon Islands Electricity Authority, Mike Mason, said instead a full supply of electricity to Honiara and surrounding areas will be back to normal soon.

The Solomon Islands Electricity Authority was forced to ration the supply of electricity to different parts of the capital over the past few days because of a two million dollar unpaid bill with fuel supplier Mobil.

Solomon Islands Electricity Authority Management then requested that the government assist in paying the bill before its storage tanks ran out, as expected, today.

The authority said it was having problems collecting more than sixteen million dollars of unpaid bills from customers.

(Background: A cease-fire in the 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, this 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:

* Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare reiterated that civil society groups may attend the Cairns peace talks if warring parties in the ethnic tension agree to it.

But both the Malaita Eagle Force and the Isatabu Freedom Movement have opposed having any new party to the talks at this stage.

In a statement, Mr. Sogavare said the peace process is moving in the right direction but is still very fragile and it would be a pity to see the agreement jeopardized by moving too far too fast.

Mr. Sogavare said it would also be difficult to agree on who should represent the civil society as all premiers and the Honiara city mayor and government ministers will be there.

Earlier the government has been cutting down on who should be at the meeting and militant groups are only allowed 20 personnel at the talks.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sogavare acknowledged the work done by civil society in trying to bring about peace, reconciliation, rehabilitation and unity and asked them to be tolerant in their understanding of the pace of the peace process.

* Solomon Airlines pilot Eric Rove, held hostage by Isatabu Freedom Movement district leader Harold Keke at Mbambanakira since September 16th, should be released in the next few days, Deputy Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza said.

However, Mr. Kemakeza refused to confirm whether the Government had agreed to pay the two million dollar ransom demanded by Mr. Keke for the release of the pilot and his aircraft.

It is also not clear whether the Britten Norman Islander aircraft will be released at the same time.

* Solomon Islands has joined Taiwan in denying overseas reports that Honiara is considering switching diplomatic relations to Mainland China.

A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Honiara said instead that the Solomon Islands government will open an embassy in Taipei next week.

This indicates that there is no change in the Solomon Islands' diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.

The statement said the Solomon Islands has been supporting Taiwan in international forums and has no intention to move away from the cordial relationship.

It said the request for additional assistance is based on the urgency of the situation at hand, adding that aid packages to the Solomon Islands are based on bilateral cooperation arrangements.

Foreign Affairs Minister Danny Philip has left the country to open the embassy in Taiwan.

He will open the Embassy on Monday, a day before Taiwan's national day, commonly known as "Double Ten Day."

While in Taipei Mr. Philip will also seek funds for those who lost their properties at the height of the ethnic tension.

Seth Gukuna will be the Solomon Islands' ambassador to Taiwan.

* The Isatabu Freedom Movement and the Are'Are speaking people of Marau on east Guadalcanal have agreed to negotiate a peace agreement following a mutual agreement to a cease-fire.

Deputy Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza told SIBC that a draft peace agreement is now with the two parties and he will meet with their representatives separately tomorrow to agree on what step to take next.

The Are'Are speaking people of Marau were displaced after the Isatabu Freedom Movement chased them from the mainland to the islands in Marau Sound on east Guadalcanal.

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

* The MP for East Are'Are, Dickson Warakohia, has been earmarked to become chairman of a government statutory body while ministerial considerations are being discussed.

This follows the acceptance by a government caucus of a letter from Mr. Warakohia to be part of the National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace government.

Mr. Warakohia also adds that the people of East Are'Are want him to join the government because of its commitment to find a lasting solution to the ethnic crisis on Guadalcanal.

* Allegations by Amnesty International and Reporters sans frontieres that Malaita Eagle Force spokesperson Andrew Nori made a telephone call threatening a freelance journalist reporting out of Gizo have again been refuted.

Mr. Nori denied the charge and challenged them to say when he made the call. He said the freelance journalist Duran Angiki, a recent University of the South Pacific journalism graduate, had actually called him.

Mr. Angiki then said that Mr. Nori had actually called and conveyed threats against the freelance journalist and his family through a Nelson Koroi.

But speaking to SIBC from Gizo yesterday, Mr. Koroi denied receiving a phone call from Mr. Nori last week on the issue.

Instead, Mr. Koroi said someone else did call him, and merely raised concerns over what could have happened if things get out of hand, because of the way some issues relating to the current crisis had been reported.

Mr. Koroi said Mr. Nori and Mr. Angiki have some family relations, and that was merely why the concerns were raised.

When asked who made the call, Mr. Koroi declined to name the person, only saying it was a friend.

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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