FORMER SOLOMONS MILITANTS DENY BUYING GUNS

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (March 1, 2001 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---The former Isatabu Freedom Movement yesterday denied allegations that two former leaders went to the Western Provincial capital, Gizo, to buy guns and ammunition.

Peace Monitoring Council Chairman Sir Peter Kenilorea said Joe Sangu and George Gray told a meeting at the council’s headquarters that they traveled to Gizo on the request of the Solomon Islands government. But Kenilorea said the two did not travel to Gizo to buy guns.

The two said they attended a reconciliation ceremony with groups from Bougainville who were involved in an incident in Gizo last year.

Former Malaita Eagle Force commanders and representatives of the Police Field Force said the allegations have no basis.

Sergeant Manasseh Maelanga said the police force was completely satisfied that the visits were for reconciliation purposes.

Both sides reaffirmed their commitments to the Townsville Peace Agreement and the current peace process.

The government paid nearly SI$ 40 million (US$ 7,924,000) to former members of militant groups between August and January this year.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace, Lucian Kii, told SIBC that the government made payments for leases, vehicles and canoes by former members of militant groups in the ethnic conflict.

He said the government, which has been spending SI$ 6 million (US$ 1,188,600) a month, decided to put an end to the payments as of today.

Mr. Kii said former militant commanders said such arrangements were never made through them. He said health and education services have greatly suffered as a result of such unnecessary spending by government.

Mr. Kii said some of the payments could be acts of fraud, while others were made under duress.

He said police are investigating the payments. He said those implicated could face prosecution.

Mr. Kii said the government would still pay for genuine claims if it can afford it.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Opposition Caucus, Enele Kwanairara, said the Solomon Islands is yet to see results of Monday’s talks between the government and its development partners.

The prime minister’s press secretary, John Asipara, described the talks yesterday as being successful, despite what he called efforts by the East Kwaio MP Alfred Sasako to disrupt the meeting.

But Mr. Kwanairara said Mr. Sasako has all the right to speak his mind.

Mr. Sasako called on aid donors to uphold the principles of democracy by not giving assistance to the government because it gained power through undemocratic means.

Mr. Kwanairara also said there's no justification in the "black listing" of the SIBC for doing its work.

Mr. Asipara yesterday threatened to put SIBC on the government's "black list" for what he described as aiding the opposition through airing Mr. Sasako's comments.

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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