HONIARA KILLING ADDS TO CONSULTANT FEARS

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (February 13, 2002 - Solomon Star/PINA Nius Online)---The killing of a European Union-financed consultant at the new Ministry of Finance building construction site is causing great anxiety to European Union personnel in the Solomon Islands.

[SEE: New Zealand Herald: New Zealander Lived With Threats In The Solomons]

A source said this is because the tragedy appears to reflect a worrisome increase in threats to consultants and advisers who have come, with their families, to implement projects.

It comes amidst continuing Solomon Islands law and order problems despite a peace agreement ending a deadly two-year ethnic conflict.

Hundreds of high-powered weapons are still unaccounted for. They include some taken when elements of the paramilitary police field force joined the June 2000 coup against the elected government.

One week ago, the consultant manager of a transportation project in Malaita received several death threats. He had to be relocated to Honiara, as his life in Malaita was endangered by landowners and criminals who stole petrol and machines.

A European Union adviser in the Ministry of Finance was molested in the building. He has been robbed twice at his home - including at gunpoint - when criminals forcibly entered his house.

These are said to be just a few examples of European Union staff that have been harassed in Honiara and elsewhere over the past six months.

The reaction of the police is said to have been far less than could have been expected. It is this that is causing the greatest anxiety in the community of consultants and advisers.

The anxiety among European Union staff is now higher than ever. This is because many of them will have to move in a few months into the new building where the recent killing took place.

This building is sited on the old Ministry of Finance building, the frequent scene of violent actions by disgruntled people who came to force payments from ministry staff.

Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza condemned the killing as a senseless murder.

Kevin O'Brien, 39, a New Zealander working as a supervisor with the joint-venture company Fletcher Kwaimani constructing the building, was stabbed to death by a local worker.

Sir Allan said he has instructed the police to pursue the case quickly and to solve the matter as soon as possible.

O'Brien, who came from Auckland, was married to a local woman and they had one child.

He was one of three expatriates working for Fletcher Kwaimani and had been living in the country for more than five years.

The New Zealand High Commissioner in Honiara, Heather Riddell, confirmed there were concerns that the police's capability to respond to crime had broken down.

"It is not a well-ordered society here and people need to take care because things like this can happen," she said.

"But things have not yet descended into anarchy and we hope they won't."

Police said they are hunting for the killer.

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

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