STATE GOVERNMENT CALLS MUST BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY, SAYS SOLOMON ISLANDS PM

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (November 14, 2000 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare opened the Premiers' Conference in Buala, saying the recent calls by several provinces for state government must be taken seriously.

He said the calls by Western, Choiseul, Guadalcanal, Makira and Temotu provinces for self-government are indicative of the urge to critically examine the issue of state government.

Mr. Sogavare said that these are serious questions that must be addressed by the one-week premiers' conference and answers must be found for these questions.

Other issues that must be addressed include land, the judiciary, revenue, social services and political power.

SIBC's Johnson Honimae reports from the Premiers' Conference that from the Prime Minister's keynote address it is very clear that the current government is determined to implement the federal system of government. It is only left for the conference to propose how this could be done, he said.

In other developments as the Solomon Islands continues to implement the Townsville Peace Agreement ending ethnic conflict between Guadalcanal and Malaita militia forces:

* The signing of documents for a $200 million grant under the Stabex Framework of Mutual Obligation 98 makes the European Union the biggest single aid donor to the Solomon Islands.

European Union Head of Delegation Juan Carlos Rey Salgado and Minister of National Planning and Human Resources Development Michael Maina signed a memorandum allowing the transfer of the $200 million aid package to the Solomons over the next few years.

Mr. Rey Salgado said the grant confirms the European Union's determination to assist Solomon Islanders realize some of their aspirations.

Much of the money will be made available through the Development Bank of Solomon Islands which, in turn, will lend it for development to individuals, and the private and public sector.

Mr. Rey Salgado said the grant will no doubt help improve the livelihoods of Solomon Islanders, which have been severely set back by the ethnic tension.

* A shoot out was reported at Ringgi Cove, Kolombangara, Western province, less than 24 hours after Saturday's shooting in Gizo in which four people were killed.

Provincial Police Commander Western Aloysious Ora confirmed that about midnight, nearly thirty people fired shots at the police station at Ringgi Cove.

He said two men released on bail damaged properties belonging to the Kolombangara Forest Products Limited earlier in the night but escaped police arrest and returned with nearly 30 men and fired shots at the police station.

Mr. Ora said the people involved in the incident are mainly Guadalcanal men retaliating over the shooting of their comrade on Saturday night.

There were no casualties in the Ringi Cove incident.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ora has appealed to Guadalcanal people living in Western province to refrain from such activities to prevent another war.

He also appealed to Westerners to stay clear of such activities and said if they had any illegal weapons, they should be handed over to the police.

* Peace Monitoring Council Chairman Sir Peter Kenilorea said he is encouraged by peace efforts by leaders of former combatants on Guadalcanal.

Commenting on a ceremony held at Panatina, Sir Peter said he was encouraged with remarks by the spokesperson for the former Malaita Eagle Force, Andrew Nori.

During the ceremony, Nori said arms currently held in the Rove armory would be returned to the police for purposes of national security, while weapons to be carried to Malaita would be handed to the International Peace Monitoring Team at Auki.

Sir Peter said these are particularly encouraging developments and reflect a deep commitment to peace.

Meanwhile, he also praised former Isatabu Freedom Movement commanders from east and west Guadalcanal for their efforts in arranging the collection of weapons from ex-combatants.

Sir Peter confirmed that weapons collection in both the eastern and western regions of Guadalcanal are well advanced.

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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