SEVEN MONTHS AND STILL NO SURRENDER IN SOLOMON ISLANDS

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PACIFIC BEAT ABC Australia Melbourne, Australia May 9, 2001

There's little progress towards lasting peace in the Solomons despite the signing of a ceasefire agreement between rival militias seven months ago.

The head of the Solomon Islands Peace Monitoring Council, Sir Peter Kenilorea, told Pacific Beat's Graham Dobell, the handing back of weapons by the military is just one of the problems plaguing the peace process.

KENILOREA: The main obstacles to the proper progress of the Townsville peace agreement is the surrender of arms, although there are other important aspects of the agreement that need to be attended to too. For example . . . development, economic development, infrastructural development on both Guadalcanal and Malaita, and restructuring of the police force, improvement of facilities so that we can gainfully and usefully occupy the ex-militants.

We haven't got there yet. We have been rather busy with the idea of surrender of arms because that is central to peace.

DOBELL: Has the gun hand back, the gun surrender though, has that process essentially stalled? Has it failed?

KENILOREA: We cannot say it's failed completely because there is a little trickling of some surrender . . . but most of these little trickles are home-made ones, and the 500 or so modern weaponry . . . are yet still at large.

So whilst I think realistically we cannot say it's a failure completely, it is disappointing that those that should be surrendered are still at large.

DOBELL: Does that mean then that the Townsville peace process has stalled?

KENILOREA: It has slowed down somewhat, in particular reference to surrender of guns. But in the various other aspects of it things have been done. For example, the government has passed the Amnesty Act and because of the difficulties we seem to be having with the gun surrender and with the progress generally of the peace agreement, the government has suggested the review to the peace process.

So it's for the government to decide on when the review is to actually take place.

DOBELL: Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has warned of growing international exasperation with the economic and the political crisis in the Solomons. What effect would it have on in the international view of Solomons if the Parliament extends it's own life by another year?

KENILOREA: Yes, that's a very important question because it does look as if our politicians do not see the way the international community sees it. They look at our political situation through a kind of a domestic myopic kind of view, when in fact the world community is concerned because we are a democratic nation, a member of the great community of nations worldwide, and I think that is in my view -- for the politicians to actually come to understand to act and to react responsibly.

DOBELL: What do you want done to reinvigorate the guns hand back and to put more national effort behind the peace process?

KENILOREA: At the present time, in my view, there's not very much that can be done because the mandates that are given to both the Council and international peace monitoring teams are very restricted to one of monitoring and reporting of breaches of the agreement.

And while we're also responsible for enforcement we do not have the facilities, and in fact we depend on local police to help us enforce certain areas of our responsibilities.

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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