SOLOMON ISLANDS: YES, 500 WEAPONS OUT THERE, SAYS ANDREW NORI

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (January 21, 2002 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---Former Malaita Eagle Force militia spokesperson Andrew Nori believes the International Peace Monitoring Team is right. There are more than 500 high-powered weapons still missing in the Solomon Islands.

Writing in his newsletter "Horizon," Mr. Nori said the peace monitoring team's account of missing weapons following the two-year ethnic conflict is correct, although the monitors have been very diplomatic.

Mr. Nori said he believes:

Many high-powered weapons were taken from the main police armory when elements of the paramilitary police field force joined Malaita Eagle Force men in the June 2000 coup in Honiara.

The armory included weapons, which had been used by the Field Force during the confrontations on the Solomon Islands-Papua New Guinea border during the Bougainville conflict.

The return of all weapons to the peace monitors or the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force is a critical necessity of the current peace initiatives, Mr. Nori, a lawyer, stressed.

Mr. Nori said it is important that all efforts be made to locate and return these "weapons of fear."

He emphasized that this is the only way Solomon Islanders can remove or diminish current negative perceptions the country receives about law and order overseas.

Rebuilding the capacity of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force is the first problem that requires immediate attention, Mr. Nori said.

He said this included the reinstatement of full and effective disciplinary procedures within the force, harmonious working relationship among officers from all provinces and recruitment based on merit.

Other measures are promotion based on merit, adequate infrastructure, including housing, and effective mobility and response to crime prevention.

Mr. Nori stressed that police must ensure a thorough and speedy investigation of reported offences, timely and speedy prosecution, an effective correctional system that keeps prisoners behind bars, and regular presence in the community.

He said these will not come easily but they constitute a checklist of what police capacity is all about.

These measures are not difficult to achieve given commitment and dedication by the government, the authorities concerned and the community, Mr. Nori emphasized.

In other developments:

* Former Governor-General Sir Moses Pitakaka called on the Prime Minister, Sir Allan Kemakeza, to remove the former government's Minister of Finance, Snyder Rini, from his Cabinet.

Sir Moses said Mr. Rini's senior advisers, including the Permanent Secretary and Comptroller of Customs and Excise, should also be relieved of their jobs while the illegal granting of duty remissions is investigated.

Previous and present governments have robbed the people of millions of dollars by illegally allowing duty remissions to certain companies and individuals, Sir Moses said.

He stressed that this money would have provided for needed services, such as health, education, and restoration and maintenance of law and order.

Sir Moses said unless Mr. Rini and his senior advisors are removed, the people and development partners will not have confidence in the government.

* The new government is working on an amendment to the National Provident Fund Act to revert to the original objective of accumulating funds for retirement and old age income.

Under its 100 days program, the government hopes to recommence payment of its contributions to the National Provident Fund by the first week of next month.

The Ministry of Finance also plans to modify the Development Bank of Solomon Islands' mandate to enable commercially oriented and self-reliant organizations to re-capitalize.

The ministry will also review the Central Bank of Solomon Islands Act to enforce its role as regulator and supervisor of banks, to ensure a stable and efficient banking system.

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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