LEADER OF HONIARA PROTEST BASHED BY ARMED MEN

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (November 9, 2001 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---A spokesperson for a Solomon Islands pressure group of displaced people was taken to the hospital today after reportedly being bashed by armed men in Honiara.

He was believed to be urging a crowd to wait patiently for Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare's response to their petition when the group of armed men arrived and started firing in the air.

No one else was seriously injured.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Sogavare was prevented for a time from leaving his office -- and the country -- by an angry crowd.

The protests followed news circulating that the former Malaita Eagle Force militia received Sol$ 17.4 million (US$ 3,225,960) in claims for lost and damaged property.

Protesters were understood to be mainly people who lost their property or suffered property damage during the two years of ethnic conflict on Guadalcanal.

Meanwhile, former members of the Malaita Eagle Force will advise the government today to cancel all payments for lost property, their spokesman said.

Spokesman Andrew Nori said it was through the Malaita Eagle Force that the provisions for payment of lost property claims were included in the Townsville Peace Agreement, which ended the ethnic conflict.

He said as signatories to the Townsville Peace Agreement, the former Malaita Eagle Force will be asking the government to divert the remaining Sol$ 50 million (US$ 9,270,000) from the EXIM Bank loan to the education and health sectors.

He said the group would ask the government to share part of the money among the nine provinces and the Honiara City Council for development purposes.

He said any displaced people who want to be compensated would have to negotiate a new agreement with the government outside the terms of the Townsville Peace Agreement.

The Lost Property Committee had demanded that the government refund Sol$ 22.58 million (US$ 4,186,332) to the lost property account at the ANZ Bank in Honiara.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, spokesman Johnson Lucas said the group demanded that the Prime Minister respond to the request by 10:30 this morning.

Minister for National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace William Haomae had said on Wednesday night that Sol$ 17.4 million (US$ 3,225,960) was paid to some members of the former Malaita Eagle Force militants, who were among those who lost their properties.

Two million dollars (US$ 370,800) was reportedly paid to Police Special Constables, Sol$ 2.6 million (US$ 482,040) for other government expenses and Sol$ 550,000 (US$ 101,970) to Temotu displaced people.

It has also been revealed that eight former Malaita Eagle Force leaders, commanders and their relatives received more than two million dollars (US$ 370,800) in payments from the lost property funds.

Information obtained by SIBC revealed that a former Malaita Eagle Force leader received nearly one million dollars (US$ 185,400).

Two former leaders, who are understood to be contesting the coming elections, were also paid, with one receiving Sol$ 800,000 (US$ 148,320).

All the payments were made through checks.

SIBC has confirmed that only Sol$ 12 million (US$ 2,224,800) of the Sol$ 35 million (US$ 6,489,000) second tranche of the lost property loan was spent on lost property payments and the remaining Sol$ 22.5 million (US$ 4,171,500) was used for other things.

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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