NEW ZEALAND, AUSTRALIA DENY INTERFERING IN SOLOMON ISLANDS CASH CRISIS

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (August 31, 2001 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---New Zealand has denied interfering with any funding from Taiwan to the Solomon Islands government. And Australia maintains that Australia's position is clear on issues of importance between itself and the Solomon Islands.

Both governments were responding to the claim by Solomon Islands caretaker Finance Minister Snyder Rini that New Zealand and Australia influenced Taiwan not to release US$ 15 million dollars in budgetary support.

[SEE: Solomons Finance Minister Rini Blames Australia And New Zealand For Taiwan Not Releasing Funds]

Mr. Rini said the funding was approved in March but was not released after Australia and New Zealand told Taiwan that the Solomon Islands is not disciplined in its financial management.

He also accused the two countries of not fulfilling their commitments after the Townsville Peace Agreement ended two years of ethnic conflict.

The claims came amid a growing financial crisis, with public servants stopping work because they have not been paid their salaries over the past four weeks.

There are also allegations the crisis is fuelled by the government's continual granting of remissions on import duties.

New Zealand High Commissioner Nick Hurley said New Zealand responded to the Solomon Islands' call for emergency funding even before the ceasefire came into effect.

The Australian High Commissioner Bob Davis said his government's level of commitment in helping the Solomon Islands in its most difficult times is public and substantial.

He brushed aside Mr. Rini's claim by saying Australia has not interfered with any help from another country to the Solomon Islands.

Mr. Davis also said Australia attaches great importance to the forthcoming election as required by the constitution of Solomon Islands. This is reflected in its level of commitment to the peace process, he said.

Meanwhile, Solomon Islands public servants can expect to be paid some salary today, Mr. Rini said.

But Solomon Islands Public Employees' Union General Secretary Clement Waiwori said only one fortnight's salary will be paid because of the cash flow situation.

A protest march by angry public servants was averted after Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare willingly agreed to have an audience with union representatives.

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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