CONCERN AT OUTBREAK OF ARMED ACTIVITY ON GUADALCANAL

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (March 29, 2002 - Radio Australia)---Police in the Solomon Islands are concerned about a sudden increase in armed activity on Guadalcanal over the past several days.

They suspect a renegade militant commander may be behind two recent incidents, as Radio Australia correspondent Dorothy Wickham reports from Honiara.

"Police in Honiara believe the recent theft of telecommunication equipment from a Solomon Telekom site that provides the telephone links to the neighboring islands of Malaita may have been the work of renegade Guadalcanal militant commander Harold Keke.

"In another incident just days ago, armed men hijacked a vehicle of the Solomon Islands Water Authority when its officers traveled to the Kongolai water pump station on the western outskirts of Honiara.

"Police say at the height of the ethnic conflict on Guadalcanal, militants also targeted these two vital service facilities.

"However, they say police are working with some Guadalcanal leaders to find out who is behind the thefts and their reasons.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

 

NO-CONFIDENCE MOVE OVER DEVALUATION OF SOLOMON ISLANDS DOLLAR CALLED FOOLISH BY CENTRAL BANK GOVERNOR HOU

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (March 31, 2002 - SIBC/PINA Nius Online)--Central Bank Governor Rick Hou said a no-confidence move against Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza's government is "foolish," if related to the devaluation of the Solomon Islands dollar.

The parliamentary opposition gave notice of its intention to call the vote following last week’s snap 25 percent devaluation.

Mr. Hou said he fails to see how anyone could regard the government’s actions as irresponsible, because devaluation is necessary to stop the country running out of external reserves.

SIBC News was unable to get details of what the opposition's line of attack will be.

But it gave notice of the no-confidence motion last Tuesday, the day on which the government's first 100 days in office had lapsed.

The government had promised among other things total disarmament of former militants within its first 100 days, a promise it is far from achieving.

Hundreds of guns are still unaccounted for despite the peace agreement ending two years of ethnic conflict.

**Mr. Hou said there is an urgent need for the international community to restore aid to the country.

Since the 2000 coup, aid donors have withheld funds. They said they need proof that the Solomon Islands is addressing law and order problems and has re-established credible financial management.

Last Tuesday, the government brought down a budget devaluing the currency and cutting the public sector payroll. It also announced plans to restructure and reinvigorate financial institutions.

Mr. Hou said the international community can no longer stand by and watch the Solomon Islands without supporting the government’s actions.

**The Consumer Affairs and Price Control Division in the Ministry of Commerce has called for business houses not to increase their prices on goods imported before the devaluation.

Director Oliver Jino said the division has received a lot of complaints from the public over an overnight increases in prices in shops.

He said the division has been assured by Solrice that it will not increase the price of rice until its pre-devaluation stock is depleted.

Mr. Jino said it is unreasonable for wholesalers and retailers to increase prices before new stocks arrive.

He said that no ships have yet come in with new cargo and shipments.

***The government will consider increasing the capacity of the Mataniko water supply facilities to meet the demands of Honiara residents, Sir Allan said.

This follows the repeated closure of the Kongulai water source in West Honiara by landowners who say the government is not paying them money they are owed.

Sir Kemakeza said that because 75 percent of Honiara consumers rely on the Kongulai water source, the government is considering increasing supply from Mataniko in Central Honiara.

Sir Allan said that the Kongulai water source comes under an agreement in which water is charged according to the quantity supplied.

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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