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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (December 5, 2001 - Solomon Star/PINA Nius Online)---The head of Solomon Islands police operations Wilfred Akao has assured voters that security will be provided at all polling stations throughout the country.

And he urged voters to go in their thousands today and cast their votes in the country's first general elections since the end of two years of ethnic conflict.

A total of 287,921 people have registered to vote to select Members of Parliament from 50 constituencies.

First results are expected by late tonight or early tomorrow morning. But counting in some of the scattered outer islands will not be completed until Saturday.

After the elections, the elected MPs then vote for the prime minister to form and lead the new government.

"We have deployed more than 1,000 police officers right across the country, who will ensure security is provided at every polling station," Mr. Akao said.

"Voters, therefore, should not be hesitant to cast their votes -- because security will be provided."

Mr. Akao said they have deployed additional staff from the police headquarters in Honiara to every province.

"By this morning, all our officers should be on the ground ready to take on their duties," he said.

"My advice to all registered voters is: feel free to vote for any candidate of your choice, and do vote wisely. Security will be provided for you all."

Police Commissioner Morton Sireheti added in a statement that the national elections are very important for the country. He appealed to all communities to allow for a free and fair election.

"The Royal Solomon Islands Police is proud to be a player in this very important event and will ensure all able voters are not denied their right to cast their vote," he said.

Election officials both in Honiara and from the provinces yesterday said that all is set.

Electoral Manager for Malaita Province Ben Karai said all presiding officers and their assistants are now at their respective polling stations -- ready.

He said although there were reports of threats coming from different sectors of the community, the Electoral Office in Auki was not formally informed of any threat.

"We do not anticipate any problems but look forward to a free and fair election," Karai said.

All other Election Managers spoken to yesterday are also optimistic of a successful election today.

Lonsdale Bako, Election Manager for Isabel Province, said with the help of police officers and four international observers, voting in the province is expected to run smoothly.

In Honiara, the city's mayor, Ronald Fugui, said: "I call on all registered voters within our city to go to the polls and vote. At the same time, I feel it is only appropriate that I call on all eligible voters of the three constituencies in Honiara City to go to our God in prayer and seek his decision."

The mayor also appeal to all city residents to uphold the laws of the city and the country, and respect each other so that we have a trouble-free election period.

"I further call on all those people out there who are still holding onto arms unlawfully to return those arms to the authority at this appropriate time and be respectable law-abiding citizens," he said.

"We must all help each other cooperatively to lift up our country. There is already enough trouble and damage caused therefore it is now time to change our thinking and attitude.

"It is my prayer that God will bring his grace, forgive our sins and restore our nation for the good of all today and for our future generations."

Twenty-five candidates will contest the three seats in the capital, 10 for West Honiara, eight for Central Honiara and seven for East Honiara.

According to the Electoral Commission, 40,718 people are registered to vote in the city. There will be 60 polling stations.

Yesterday, in the closing hours of the campaign, convoys of vehicles drove up and down city streets loaded with supporters calling for people to vote for their candidate.

Music blared and horns tooted as the convoys of vehicles roamed the city. But there were no reports of incidents.



HONIARA, Solomon Islands (December 4, 2001 - Solomon Star/PINA Nius Online)---Solomon Islanders -- facing a deepening financial crisis and continuing law and order problems -- have been urged to vote Wednesday for the future of their children.

The appeal on the eve of the general elections came in a front-page editorial comment in the national newspaper Solomon Star.

"Many leaders are corrupt," the Solomon Star said. "They tell lies and give sweet talks on the streets."

The newspaper, stressing the desperate situation following two years of ethnic conflict, an economy in nosedive and hundreds of high-powered guns still unaccounted for, said: "Solomon Islanders will go to the polls tomorrow to elect a new government, a government of national unity and reconstruction, a government that must bring a lasting peace to the people of these islands.

"For the past two years, 1999 and 2000, Solomon Islands saw its worst conflict since World War II, when America and its allies fought the Japanese on Solomon Islands soil.

"Our internal conflict drove people away from their work, brought the country's economy to a standstill, created fear among the people, caused suffering to men, women and children.

"After reading and learning about all these unending problems, what type of people are we voting for to put Solomon Islands back on track?

"Are you going to vote for a candidate who has ruined Solomon Islands by pursuing millions of dollars of public money?

"Are you going to vote for a candidate who is giving you now at the last minute a bag of rice, money, chickens or building a road for you?

"Are you going to vote for a person who has been to prison?

"Are you going to vote for people who still hold on to the guns?

"Are you going to vote for a candidate who cannot even run a small canteen?

"Who are you thinking of voting for to get Solomon Islands back on its feet?

"This country is broke financially.

"No more exports.

"No more essential services.

"No more schools and payment of salaries.

"Many leaders are corrupt. They tell lies and give sweet talks on the streets.

"We must now think seriously who to vote for to help govern Solomon Islands.

"We must vote for those who will work tirelessly to get basic services back again.

"We must vote for dedicated leaders. People who have concerns for Solomon Islands.

"We must vote for people with the talent, the vision and the will to work and solve all the numerous problems initiated in the last two years.

"We must vote for leaders who will provide security, a sound government and an independent judicial system.

"We must make changes for the betterment of Solomon Islands.

"Look at our children who will look back at the elements who have destroyed Solomon Islands. They, and all of us, want a good government.

"The good government will only come if we vote the right people in. If you do not vote tomorrow, it means that you are happy with the present situation.

"Everyone who has registered must make every effort to cast their vote.

"This is your country.

"You must vote if you want it to change for our children and people to enjoy the future.

"If you do not help now by casting your vote, you will regret it after because one vote can make a difference."

"Solomon Star has published the names of candidates several times.

"Make a decision and choose the right candidate.

"Your vote tomorrow counts."

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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