SOLOMON ISLANDS LEADERSHIP MAY WORRY AID DONORS

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (December 17, 2001 - PINA Nius Online)---Two key figures in the controversy-marked Solomon Islands government, which took over in last year's coup crisis, combined Monday to elect Sir Allan Kemakeza prime minister.

Sir Allan, the former deputy prime minister in that coalition government, won with the votes of 29 of the 50 members of the new Parliament.

They had been elected in the general elections 12 days ago.

The leadership vote is expected to receive a lukewarm response from Australia and New Zealand. These are the countries expected to provide most help rebuilding the Solomons after two years of Guadalcanal-Malaita ethnic conflict and continuing financial and law-and-order problems.

Sir Allan became prime minister thanks to support from his own Peoples Alliance Party (PAP) group and a group of independents led by former finance minister Snyder Rini.

Sir Allan was dismissed as deputy prime minister soon before the elections regarding a controversy over compensation payments, including to himself.

Mr. Rini -- now expected to have a key role in Sir Allan's government -- was involved in controversy over his granting of millions of dollars of customs duty remissions to individuals and companies.

The government revenue lost through this move worsened the national financial crisis, when major export industries already were closed because of the ethnic conflict.

Mr. Rini had also been nominated for prime minister. But he withdrew from the secret ballot and he and his group supported Sir Allan.

Sir Allan is expected to announce his ministers shortly.

Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) reported that the voting for prime minister was held under tight security, with armed police guarding Parliament House.

They included members of the Police Field Force and the Rapid Response Unit, who were armed with high-powered weapons, SIBC said.

Radio Australia's Sean Dorney reported there was no cheering from the crowd outside Parliament in Honiara when the election of Sir Allan was announced.

The Solomon Islands Alliance for Change (SIAC) -- which was expected to be a contender to lead the new government -- split following the election of Patteson Oti, a former foreign minister, as its candidate for prime minister.

Bartholomew Ulufa'alu, the SIAC prime minister forced to resign during the coup crisis, quit the SIAC group in protest over Mr. Oti's election. He stood as a candidate of his own Liberal Party.

In the coup crisis Honiara was taken over by the Malaita Eagle Force militia and elements of the paramilitary police field force.

Mr. Ulufa'alu -- who appeared to have considerable public support -- acknowledged that rumors there would be another coup if he were elected prime minister had hurt his chances.

SIBC reported that before the vote for prime minister the Honiara Civil Society Network appealed to parliamentarians not to sell the nation when they voted.

The network -- church, business, women's groups, trade union and NGO representatives -- said it knew some people were prepared to offer parliamentarians thousands of dollars for their votes.

The group said it was clear that there were some who wanted power so that they could continue the corruption seen in the past 18 months and beyond, SIBC reported.

The civil society network said if the wrong person was voted in as prime minister Solomon Islanders could be sure that aid donors would find it very difficult to help the country.

It called on the public to put pressure on their Members of Parliament to vote for a leader who had the nation's interest first.

Restoring law and order will be one of the first challenges facing Sir Allan's new government, along with the growing financial crisis.

An estimated 500 high-powered weapons have still not been returned as required under the Townsville Peace Agreement, which ended the ethnic conflict.

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

 

NEW SOLOMON ISLANDS PRIME MINISTER KEMAKEZA GRATEFUL FOR WIN

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (December 17, 2001 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---The new Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Sir Allan Kemakeza, said the voice of the people is reflected in the votes of the MPs who elected him Monday.

Sir Allan said he was grateful for the support, cooperation and understanding of the people represented by the votes of the newly elected MPs.

The former deputy prime minister polled 29 votes in the only round of voting needed. He had been nominated by the Peoples Alliance Party (PAP), of which he is parliamentary leader.

It came as the 50 newly elected parliamentarians met in Honiara to decide the prime minister who will form the government. Parliament was watched over by armed police guards as MPs decided.

Patteson Oti, the candidate of the Solomon Islands Alliance for Change (SIAC), which was ousted from government in last year's Honiara coup crisis, came second with 13 votes.

Gordon Lilo got five votes and former prime minister Bartholomew Ulufa'alu just three votes.

Mr. Ulufa'alu had split from SIAC after Mr. Oti won the nomination ahead of him.

The fifth candidate, Snyder Rini, heading the Association of Independent MPs team, withdrew his candidacy just before the election. He and his group supported Sir Allan.

Sir Allan said the times ahead will not be easy. This follows two years of ethnic conflict, the coup crisis and continuing law and order and financial problems.

It will be a time of sacrifice, Sir Allan said.

But he added that the people must be comforted by their faith in the Lord, that through him all things are possible.

Former Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare thanked the Republic of China-Taiwan government for the help it continues to give to the Solomon Islands.

In his final address before he handed over the government, Mr. Sogavare said the government and people of the Solomon Islands owe much to the government and people of Taiwan.

He said Taiwan had stepped in to rescue the country in its darkest hours during the ethnic crises.

Mr. Sogavare said that without Taiwan's help paying compensation for lost property, the Solomon Islands would not be enjoying the relative peace and stability it is enjoying now.

Mr. Sogavare also maintained his view that the state must be separated from the church.

Mr. Sogavare said history has shown that when churches over-influenced state policies such states often have oppressive laws.

Some Christian and church groups had criticized Mr. Sogavare's government, including over its granting of customs duty remissions on imports such as alcohol.

This had been done by Mr. Rini, who was finance minister, and it provoked widespread controversy.

Mr. Sogavare won re-election to Parliament but his Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) suffered heavy losses.

Mr. Sogavare also had wanted to extend the life of Parliament another year, saying the country was not ready for general elections.

But this plan ended after fierce and vocal opposition from civil society organizations, including church and Christian groups.

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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