WORRIES OVER TOWNSVILLE PEACE AGREEMENT BREACHES IN SOLOMONS

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (January 3, 2001 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---The Townsville Peace Agreement requiring militants in the recent Guadalcanal crisis to surrender all arms has been breached because junior ranking members are ignorant of the agreement, a Peace Monitoring Council source said.

The source said the Peace Monitoring Council met during the festive season break to discuss ways to deal with those who are still keeping guns, although the amnesty period lapsed December 15.

The source said while leaders of the two sides (Guadalcanal Isatabu Freedom Fighters and the Malaita Eagle Force) who are signatories to the agreement fully understand the content and importance of the agreement, most former junior militants don't.

He said more than 400 recorded weapons are still at large. The Peace Monitoring Council has advised the Commissioner of Police to talk to para-military leaders about the need to take further action.

The Peace Monitoring Council source said most crucial is the need to educate those who may have arms in their possession to understand and adhere to the peace process.

He said the Peace Monitoring Council has alerted the government about the issue and the need for all parties to the agreement to address this ignorance.

SIBC understands that the Peace Monitoring Council and the Commissioner of Police will convene a meeting soon to further discuss the issue.

In other news:

** Police said investigations into crimes in Honiara at the height of the ethnic tension, including burning of buildings and homes, are ineffective because of lack of public support.

Director of Criminal Investigations Jackson Ofu said potential witnesses are just too scared to talk to the police for fear of their safety.

Mr. Ofu confirmed reports that people have harassed his officers investigating the torching of the former Guadalcanal Provincial Headquarters and a three-story commercial building.

He said there have been instances when rocks were hurled at the vehicles of investigating officers.

Despite such hiccups, Mr. Ofu said police will continue with investigations until such time they're satisfied with the evidence collected.

He said it may take years to work to resolve the cases, but called on potential witnesses to come forward.

Mr. Ofu said crime officers are reluctant to carry out their investigations into the torching incidents as armed people are still around.

** Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare reminded former militant group leaders and members that it is their responsibility to return all arms still at large.

Mr. Sogavare made the appeal in his Christmas message.

More than 500 weapons are estimated not to have been returned when the amnesty period lapsed December 15th.

Mr. Sogavare said former militant group leaders and members must take full responsibility in cleaning up their act as parties to the Townsville Peace Agreement.

He said the way forward is to accept peace and leave behind the evils of war, hatred and crime and to learn to live harmoniously with each other.

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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