SOLOMON ISLANDS INDUSTRIES WAIT FOR PEACE BEFORE REOPENING

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (October 26, 2000 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---Gold Ridge Mining Limited says any decision to re-open its operations on central Guadalcanal will depend entirely on the successful implementation of the Townsville Peace Agreement.

General Manager of Gold Ridge Mining Limited, Rod Hanson, told SIBC from Brisbane that the Townsville Peace Agreement is a very positive sign that the militant groups in Solomon Islands want peace.

However, he said the company would not resume operations until the International Peace Monitoring Team is in place and the militants are disarmed.

He added that the return of law and order is the number one priority because the company wants the safety of its workers guaranteed before it re-starts operations at Gold Ridge.

Other issues to be considered include the company's properties that were stolen or damaged during the ethnic tension.

Mr. Hanson said he hopes Gold Ridge will be able to re-open its operations within the next six months.

The same sentiments have also been expressed by Solomon Islands Plantations Limited and Solomon Taiyo Limited, which also closed their operations as a result of the ethnic conflict.

Acting General Manager of Solomon Islands Plantations Limited, Jimmy Hilly, says Commonwealth Development Corporation, which is the majority shareholder, is anxious to return to negotiate a new agreement for the operations of the company on the Guadalcanal Plains.

However, Mr. Hilly says it’s likely Solomon Islands Plantations Limited will not resume operations until the middle of next year.

Meanwhile, the Deputy General Manager of Solomon Taiyo Limited, Milton Sipisopere, told SIBC that any decision to re-start the company's operations will be made at a meeting of shareholders next month.

Solomon Islands lost millions of dollars in export revenue and thousands of jobs when the three companies closed their operations.

Meantime, there's been a drastic reduction in criminal activities in Honiara after the signing of the Townsville Peace Agreement a fortnight ago, Assistant Commissioner of Police Operations Wilfred Akao confirmed.

He also revealed that incidents relating to the use of guns have lessened over the past two weeks.

Mr. Akao said there's a friendly atmosphere in Honiara, unlike what the police and the public had seen over the past 18 months.

He assured Solomon islanders that the situation in Honiara is slowly returning to what it was like before the ethnic tension on Guadalcanal.

Mr. Akao said the police force is resuming its normal activities, although this is very challenging. He assured Honiara residents that they are carrying out their role as stipulated in the Townsville Peace Agreement.

Meanwhile, the joint Australian/New Zealand reconnaissance team held talks yesterday afternoon with the Malaita Provincial Government.

The team arrived in Honiara, to find out how Australia and New Zealand could support the implementation of the recently signed Townsville Peace Agreement.

They are expected to meet with Guadalcanal Provincial Government and Isatabu Freedom Movement representatives today at Mbalasuna, East Guadalcanal.

On returning to their countries at the end of this week, the team will submit a report to their respective governments before a joint peace monitoring team is deployed to the Solomon Islands to oversea the implementation of the Townsville Peace Agreement.

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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