SUFFERING GUADALCANAL VILLAGERS PLEAD FOR CARGO BOATS

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (May 31, 2001 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---People around Guadalcanal have urged local and international peace monitors to help convince cargo boats to resume deliveries from Honiara.

The call was made during visits to villages around the island by members of the Solomon Islands Peace Monitoring Council and International Peace Monitoring Team.

A Peace Monitoring Council statement said Guadalcanal rural women have complained about being without kerosene, oil, soap, salt and other basic needs. Many areas depend on boats for deliveries, as there are few roads outside of the Guadalcanal Plains.

It is understood that cargo boats stopped deliveries to most Guadalcanal villages because of intimidation from former militants despite the end of two years of Guadalcanal-Malaita ethnic conflict.

Peace Monitoring Council Vice Chairman Paul Tovua and member Henry Tobani last week led separate delegations to villages in the west and east of Guadalcanal.

The delegation leaders said law and order was a major concern in all areas visited.

They said although communities were peaceful and village life back to normal, the non-surrender of around 500 high-powered weapons made villagers concerned about the future.

In other developments:

* The Japanese Embassy and United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, have donated medical supplies to the Solomon Islands government.

The Japanese government donated supplies including measles vaccines, syringes, safety boxes and others things to support a measles eradication campaign which will start in September.

UNICEF and the World Health Organization, WHO, have assisted the South Pacific five-year immunization program, which started in the Solomon Islands in 1997.

As a major donor to this project, the Japanese government offered financial assistance, while UNICEF and WHO gave advice and technical assistance.

* Development Planning Minister Michael Maina said the total cost of holding the national elections this year will be about SI$ 18.8 million (US$ 3,639,380) and not SI$ 5 million (US$ 968,000) as previously announced in the media.

He clarified that the government will require an initial SI$ 5 million (US$ 968,000) to put the logistics in place and effect the start of the registration process.

* General Secretary of the Public Employees Union (SIPEU), Clement Waiwori, said the union is planning certain ways to help the government in its finances.

Mr. Waiwori says an option would be to ask the government to allow its non-essential services workers to work half a day for half their salaries. The other option would be to have all government workers -- including Members of Parliament and Constitution post holders -- donate SI$ 10 (US$ 1.94) of their salary towards government funds.

He said this would assist government settle some of its outstanding bills and debts including members' contributions to the National Provident Fund, rentals and other expenses.

Mr. Waiwori said everybody is suffering and unions should assist the government during these hard times.

He added that government finances are very critical, with telephones disconnected, arrears not being paid, salaries delayed for more than a week, rents overdue and the standing with international financial institutions tarnished.

* Representatives of Delta Gold Australia are planning a series of discussions in Honiara with the Solomon Islands government and Gold Ridge Mine landowners.

Minister for Mines and Energy Walton Naezon confirmed that the group is looking at ways of reopening the mine in central Guadalcanal following the end of the two years of ethnic conflict that closed it.

Mr. Naezon said the government, Delta Gold and landowners will put forward their concerns and will try and come up with a compromise.

He said the government, Delta Gold and landowners had all lost money due to the closure.

Mr. Naezon said a reconciliation ceremony will be held between the parties involved when they agree on a compromise.

He is optimistic that the reconciliation will be held by the end of next June.

The ministry is hoping that the operation at Gold Ridge will resume before October or November.

Gold Ridge had been emerging as an important contributor the Solomon Islands economy.

The country is now facing a financial crisis following the ethnic conflict, which closed key industries. These were both major employers and revenue earners.

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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