SOLOMONS COUNCIL INVESTIGATES POLICE USE OF GUNS

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (April 3, 2001 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---The Solomon Islands Peace Monitoring Council has re-opened investigations into alleged breaches of the Townsville Peace Agreement during police operations on Guadalcanal's Weather Coast.

This follows an article in The Australian newspaper over the weekend.

The story quoted the Police Field Force Director, Joseph Baetolongia, as saying that some weapons used in last month's operation should have been surrendered last year under the peace agreement.

Police and former militants reportedly conducted operations against militant leader Harold Keke and his men.

Mr. Keke says he did not sign the peace agreement. He and his followers, who are armed with high-powered weapons, are accused of carrying out criminal activities against civilians.

The Australian newspaper also quoted Mr. Baetolongia as saying that a patrol boat was used to re-arm former Isatabu Freedom Movement militants recently sworn in as special constables.

The Peace Monitoring Council says that if this is true, there have been serious breaches of the agreement.

An eyewitness quoted by the newspaper and last Friday's Solomon Star claimed that the man killed while helping police was a civilian armed with a machine gun.

Peace Monitoring Council Chairman Sir Peter Kenilorea said he will write to the government asking for a full investigation into the police operation.

Meanwhile, Mr. Baetolongia said he would be surprised if the council had known for the first time that the weapons that should have been surrendered are the ones used in the operation.

He said that while the Townsville Peace Agreement is a respectable document, it is an agreement between the conflicting parties aimed at achieving peace.

Mr. Baetolongia said his officers also support peace and total disarmament, but added that it is their function to execute the law.

Mr. Baetolongia said that reports did not indicate whether or not the civilian who helped police was armed.

In other developing news:

* Minister for Police, Justice and National Security William Haomae said the Amnesty Bill 2001 takes into consideration the inclusion of those involved in the Marau crisis under the Marau Peace Agreement.

He said the bill seeks to grant former militants amnesty for the sake of peace, harmony, communal solidarity, stability, law and order, and their return to society.

But Mr. Haomae noted that for anyone to qualify for amnesty and immunity from prosecution, those concerned must first meet certain conditions.

He said that among the main requirements are the surrender of arms and ammunition and stolen property within a specified time.

Caretaker Opposition Leader Bartholomew Ulufa'alu described the bill as a piece of legislation without power.

Mr. Ulufa'alu said it cannot be implemented until an amnesty section is included in the constitution.

He said this can also be said of the Amnesty Bill passed recently under the Townsville Peace Agreement.

Mr. Ulufa'alu said the previous agreements were broken because people who are still holding arms have used them for criminal activities.

He also said the current government came into power by the use of guns.

This claim was denied by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for National Unity Reconciliation and Peace Allan Kemakeza.

Mr. Kemakeza said both the Townsville and the Marau peace agreements have created an atmosphere where people can now come together as one people.

Mr. Kemakeza said what the country needs now is cooperation among various levels in the community and leaders, including Members of Parliament.

He appealed to the members of the opposition to assist and contribute meaningfully in finding ways to lasting peace and a total disarmament of former militants.

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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