SOLOMON ISLANDS WAR IS OVER, SAYS THE MALAITA EAGLE FORCE

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (October 17, 2000 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---As far as the Malaita Eagle Force is concerned, the two-year old ethnic war on Guadalcanal is over.

Spokesman Andrew Nori said Malaita Eagle Force bunkers and camps will be dismantled as part of the demilitarization process agreed to in the peace agreement signed in Townsville, Australia.

Malaita Eagle Force members are also expected to leave Honiara within the next few days or weeks.

(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 has been largely under the control of Guadalcanal's Isatabu Freedom Movement militia.)

The government has established its priorities for the implementation of the peace agreement.

Deputy Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza told SIBC that this includes arranging for the international peace monitoring force and the Marau issue.

Australian and New Zealand are expected to provide unarmed soldiers and police to help monitor the peace agreement.

All forms of firearms and ammunition must be surrendered to the International Peace Monitoring Team within thirty days under the Townsville Peace Agreement.

A clause within the agreement requires all weapons and ammunition possessed by the Malaita Eagle Force and the Isatabu Freedom Movement to be surrendered.

The weapons will then be under the control of the International Peace Monitoring Team (I-P-M-T).

The agreement also stipulates that those who defy the order and continue to be in possession of any arms and ammunition or stolen property after the specified period will not be granted amnesty or immunity.

Amendments will be made by Parliament to the Solomon Islands National Provident Fund Act within the next six months.

This is to allow for decentralization of the Fund, allowing superannuation contributions to the fund by Malaitans to be paid to a New Malaita Provident Fund.

Meanwhile, the same agreement also stipulates that the national government shall enter into negotiations with the Malaita Provincial Government in the next six months for purposes of providing appropriate assistance to the provincial government in recognition of the forced influx of people to the province.

It also said the national government and the Malaita and Guadalcanal provincial governments shall negotiate a memorandum of understanding in respect to development incentives for the two provinces, including government loans and grants.

The Solomon Islands Government is understood to be seeking US$ 200 million dollars in assistance from the Peoples Republic of China.

Foreign Minister Danny Philip was in Beijing last week in what has become a controversial visit, to find out whether Mainland China is able to assist the Solomon Islands.

Prime Minister Mannasseh Sogavare told SIBC that Mr Philip is expected to brief him on the trip before a special meeting of the Cabinet is held to allow ministers to question the foreign minister about his trip.

Mr. Sogavare earlier said the Government will have to consider the terms and conditions of any assistance from Mainland China before deciding whether the Solomon Islands should switch its diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing.

Diplomatic sources told SIBC that Mr. Philip's trip to Beijing, which was given retrospective approval by Cabinet, means that Taiwan will be unwilling to deal with Mr. Philip as foreign minister in the future.

Mr. Philip last week snubbed the Taiwanese Vice Foreign Minister, Mr. Wu Tze-dan, when he took off from Brisbane to Beijing an hour before a scheduled meeting in Brisbane.

Mr. Wu had traveled all the way from Taipei to meet with Mr. Philip in Brisbane.

Prime Minister Sogavare earlier told SIBC that the government needs a lot of assistance to finance its budget for next year.

Mr. Wu said his country will not withdraw its ambassador to the Solomon Islands despite allegations of political blackmail and rumors of an eminent switch of diplomatic ties to Beijing.

A Taiwanese newspaper quoted Mr. Wu as saying that the ambassador's continued presence in Honiara is necessary in order to consolidate the two country's relationship.

He was responding to calls from legislators to take strong steps to retaliate for the unexpected decision by Mr. Philip to go to Beijing instead of attending Taiwan's Double Tenth National Day celebrations last week.

The newspaper said Taiwan had already lodged a protest with the Solomon Islands, but added that it needs its ambassador to remain in Honiara to make every effort to maintain and strengthen the ties.

In other news, the Taiwanese vice foreign minister also denied that Honiara had ever asked for US$ 150 million in exchange for continued diplomatic ties with Taipei.

Reacting to comments, Mr. Wu said the phrase of "money diplomacy" to describe Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is intolerable, adding, that kind of thought was extremely contradictory.

He said there are no criteria for obtaining diplomatic allies, because recognition of Taiwan as a member of the international community is what really matters.

For additional reports from the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation.

 

MILITARY COMMANDERS APOLOGIZE FOR SOLOMONS WAR

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (October 17, 2000 – Radio Australia)---The two military commanders of the warring Solomon Islands militias have apologized to their countrymen for the war.

After the signing of the peace agreement in Townsville during the weekend, all 130 delegates returned to the Solomon Islands to put the peace accord in place.

The two commanders have pledged to abide by the agreement and to restore peace, admitting, however, that the process will not be easy and may take some time.

The Supreme Military Commander of the Isatabu Freedom Movement, Andrew Te'e, said he's committed to the accord.

"We regret the things that we may have done that may inflict pain and suffering to individuals and the nation," he said. "But now it is time for us to set our eyes on the future, on how we implement the challenges in this peace agreement.

"To members of the Malaita Eagle Force and the government, we extend our hands for a peaceful handshake."

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

 

AUSTRALIA’S ARMY CHIEF READY FOR SOLOMONS PEACEKEEPING

CANBERRA, Australia (October 16, 2000 – ABC Australia)---The chief of the Australian Army, Lieutenant General Peter Cosgrove, says his troops are ready to take on peacekeeping duties in the Solomon Islands.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer earlier said Australia will contribute to an international team to monitor the peace agreement between warring militias on the Solomons.

Lieutenant General Cosgrove said the international team will be similar to the Bougainville peace-monitoring group.

"We'd be ready...I mean I'm speculating here but [I] imagine the numbers here wouldn't be much different to what we had in Bougainville, maybe a little smaller even," he said.

"But in any event, it's such an important issue that if it is the government's wish then naturally the Defense Force will be ready to leap into action."

The agreement to end a war, which has killed up to 100 people, was negotiated in Townsville during the past six days.

The Solomons has been racked by intermittent fighting between rival militia from Guadalcanal and Malaita islands for nearly two years.

For additional reports from ABC Australia News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/ABC News Online.

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