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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (November 10, 2000 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---The request from the Solomon Islands to the Republic of China (Taiwan) for an assistance package of $300 million will have to go before the Taiwan Parliament for approval.

Special Advisor to the Prime Minister, Edward Hunuehu, confirmed to SIBC that this is because of the size of the request.

Mr. Hunuehu said despite the parliamentary requirement, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare had received assurances from the government during his recent visit to Taiwan of a commitment to assist the Solomon Islands reconstruct its economy.

Mr. Hunuehu said the Taiwan Parliament will meet early next year during which the Solomon Islands' request will be considered.

He said this delay will not affect the government's commitments under the Townsville Peace Agreement because the support from Taiwan will be part of the national budget expected to be presented to the National Parliament next February.

Meantime, Prime Minister Sogavare is said to be satisfied with the outcome of his discussions in Taipei.

A statement from the Prime Minister's Office described the six-day trip as primarily aimed at patching the rift between the two countries over their diplomatic ties.

The statement said the trip provided an opportunity for the leaders of the two countries to discuss their strengths and weaknesses, and the level of appropriate assistance, through bi-lateral negotiations.

It said this assistance could be along traditional avenues, as well as new initiatives, which may form an appropriate part of the overall bi-lateral co-operation programme.

The statement said the government of Taiwan realizes that the Solomon Islands has suffered economically as a result of ethnic unrest and, as a friend, Taiwan stands ready to assist the Solomon Islands in the peace process, including the rehabilitation and reconstruction of its society.

In other developments:

* The first ten Australian Federal Police officers to join the International Peace Monitoring team have arrived in Honiara.

About twenty police will join the 35 Australians attached to the monitoring team, along with 14 New Zealanders.

The first ten police arrived aboard an Australian Defense Force Hercules plane from Townsville yesterday morning.

Australian Justice Minister, Amanda Vanstone, said the initial ten were chosen because of their previous experience in peacekeeping or peace monitoring in such places such as East Timor, Bougainville, Cyprus and Haiti.

The unarmed officers will be deployed for 90 days.

Senator Vanstone said that at full strength, police teams will be operating in rural areas throughout Guadalcanal.

The head of the International Monitoring Team, Australian Simon Merrifield, arrived two days ahead of the Australian police.

Six New Zealand Peace monitors will be arriving this Saturday.

* The surrendering of arms and ammunition by former militants has started.

Vice Chairman of the Peace Monitoring Council, Paul Tovua, confirmed that former Isatabu Freedom Movement militants have returned their weapons to their commanders and they are being stored in a location on Guadalcanal.

The Malaita Eagle Force will hand over arms and ammunition at a ceremony to be held in Honiara this afternoon.

Mr. Tovua said such gestures indicate that former militants are committed to the Townsville Peace Agreement.

He said the sooner the arms and ammunitions are returned, the better it is for civilians and Solomon Islands’ image.

Mr. Tovua said members of the International Peace Monitoring team will collect the arms and ammunition and have them stored as required under the terms of the Townsville Peace Agreement.

He said the arrival of the peace monitors from Australia and New Zealand will boost the activities planned by the Peace Monitoring Council.

* More than a dozen local lawyers and magistrates will be formally admitted as legal practitioners in the Solomon Islands today.

The admission ceremony will be held in open court, at the High Court chambers in Honiara.

Registrar of the High Court, David Chetwynd, said this will be the first time in the Solomon Islands that an admission ceremony will take place in open court.

* The major telecommunications company in the country, Solomon Telekom, is laying off 90 of its 255 workers.

In a statement, company general manager Martyn Robinson said the action is to ensure cost reduction in an environment encompassing a severe downturn in business, resulting from the ethnic tension on Guadalcanal.

The layoffs will affect some top managers, both local and expatriates.

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

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (November 8, 2000 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---Since the signing of the Townsville Peace Agreement three weeks ago, there has been cautious optimism that the Solomon Islands is on the road to recovery.

The agreement ended a two-year conflict between people from the main island of Guadalcanal - home of the capital, Honiara - and people from neighboring Malaita.

John Naituro, a Malaitan who has been permanent secretary of various government departments in the Solomons, told Pacific Beat that the symbolic status of the Townsville Agreement is very important.

"Most important is the central clause that suggests there has to be some constitutional change (and) the need to establish a council for constitutional review," he said.

"It created a lot of expectations, especially for people in Guadalcanal."

He noted that one-third of the Solomons’ population consists of Malaitans, with a population of 168,000. That’s compared to 63,000 people on Guadalcanal and 68,000 in the western Solomons, according to the 1999 census, which is the most recent study for which figures are available.

"Obviously from that point of view you can say there are a lot more Malaitans," he said. "But in terms of population ratio and jobs representation, there are more people from western provinces employed in this statistic than Malaitans."

Naituro also added that there is a higher-level Guadalcanal representation in government per population than from Malaita.

"For example, Guadalcanal has had the post governor general for the past 10 years and Malaita hasn’t had that post yet," he noted. "The post of prime minister has always been taken by Guadalcanal. The speaker of Parliament and the chief justice of Solomon Islands’ High Court have been from Guadalcanal. And many medical doctors in the Solomon Islands system are from Guadalcanal."

"Quite clearly when you look at population ratio, they are not any far worst off than others in the Solomons," he said. "In fact, they’re quite well off."

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

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