AUSTRALIA TO HELP FUND SOLOMON ISLANDS ELECTIONS

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (June 7, 2001 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---Australia is providing an initial contribution of A$ 375,000 (US$ 193,687) to help the Solomon Islands conduct elections due by December.

It is also offering to provide technical support to the Solomon Islands government’s electoral officials.

Announcing the aid, Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, said Australia will do everything it can to see that that Solomon Islanders are able to vote this year.

Mr. Downer said he discussed the elections during a meeting in Canberra with the Solomons Deputy Prime Minister, Allan Kemakeza. He also expressed Australia's deep interest in the planned review of the Townsville Peace Agreement, which was recently announced by the Solomons government.

The Townsville Agreement ended two years of ethnic conflict, mainly on Guadalcanal, the capital island.

The Australian Foreign Minister said he and the Solomon Islands Deputy Prime Minister agreed that the review should seek to strengthen adherence to the agreement and restore momentum to disarmament.

 

In other developments:

* The Solomon Islands Government is believed to be divided over a proposed loan of $500 million from Mainland China.

SIBC learned of the proposal from sources close to the government.

Under the proposed deal, the government, through a middleman from Malaysia, is to obtain the loan to fund its budget requirements for displaced people and lost properties.

Some high ranking politicians and government officials are said to have been involved in the proposed deal only to be blocked in the Cabinet by a group led by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.

SIBC understands such a deal will not go down well with Taiwan, one of the major donors to the Solomon Islands.

The Solomon Islands is one of the few Pacific Islands countries that has diplomatic relations with Taiwan instead of Mainland China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province.

It's believed the government is desperate to meet its promises made on payment for lost properties during the Guadalcanal-Malaita social unrest.

 

* The government will soon know the contractor that will implement the five-year AusAID funded project on the strengthening and improvement of services in the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.

Permanent Secretary Dr. Lester Ross said two Australian companies were interviewed and the government is waiting on AusAID to decide on the winning bidder.

Dr. Ross said the Australian-funded project is worth A$ 10 million (US$ 5,165,000) and involves the management and supervision of health services in the country.

He said the project covers key areas, including improving the running of the national referral hospital and strengthening the management of the ministry and provincial health services.

 

* The General Manager of Solomon Breweries, Kwan Amataga, has predicted a 40% drop in its annual sales as a result of duty remissions the government has given companies and individuals to import liquor.

Mr. Amataga said that the government had used the excuse that it gave remissions on beer to individuals and companies affected by the recent ethnic tension.

But he said it is very unfair for the government to treat Solbrew as a company that was not affected by the ethnic tension.

He confirmed that last year Solbrew contributed SI$11 million (US$ 2,129,600) to government funds in excise taxes and other revenue.

Mr. Amataga said because of reduced sales, the company can only give the government half of what it contributed last year.

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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