SOLOMON ISLANDS MONITORING, NOT AN ENFORCEMENT ROLE FOR INTERNATIONAL GROUP

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (October 29, 2000 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---The joint Australia-New Zealand planning mission on the deployment of an International Peace Monitoring Team under the Townsville Peace Agreement strongly emphasizes that the team's role will be monitoring and observing only.

The leader of the mission, Joe Thwaites, told a news conference that the unarmed team will not have any enforcement role.

Mr. Thwaites said as a planning mission, his delegation will make their findings known to the Australia and New Zealand governments before any final decision is made on the peace monitoring team.

However, he envisages that the team will start off with about 30 members deployed for an initial period of six months, and this could be extended.

Mr. Thwaites said the target is to have the neutral peace monitoring team in the Solomon Islands within 30 days, as required under the Townsville Peace Agreement.

Mr. Thwaites said clearly there are still security risks because there still are many arms around in the country.

However, Mr. Thwaites said there are positive feelings because the Isatabu Freedom Movement and Malaita Eagle Force seem to be working seriously and deliberately to conform with the provisions of the Townsville Peace Agreement to collect the arms.

Under the agreement, militants will be given amnesty if they surrender their arms within 30 days after the execution of the agreement.

Mr. Thwaites has also indicated that during meetings with the various parties and other interested people, one common thing that came through was that not a lot of people know what is in the agreement.

He said it is important that communities know about the agreement before the peace monitors are deployed so people know why they are here and don't have false expectations and impressions.

Meantime, hundreds of former combatants from the Isatabu Freedom Movement and Malaita Eagle Force Joint Operation packed the Ngalimbiu Club today at a custom feast prepared by the people of the area.

The custom feast was aimed at bringing together former militants from both parties, something that could never have happened over the past two years.

The guest speaker was Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.

Mr. Sogavare said he was deeply touched today by the demonstration of reconciliation and friendship by the once warring parties.

In an emotional speech, the Prime Minister said the former militants need forgiveness from the people of the Solomon Islands.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace, Allen Kemakeza, was sick and was unable to attend.

He was described at the gathering as the champion of peace.

In other news:

* Guadalcanal's provincial premier received a one million dollar check from the national government.

According to Premier Ezekiel Alebua, the money is for the government's repatriation of former Isatabu Freedom Movement militants.

Each former militant will receive one thousand dollars, the same amount received by former Malaita Eagle Force militants.

In his remarks at a ceremony at Ngalimbiu, Premier Alebua urged former militants to return to their villages immediately after they get their money.

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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