SECURITY FEARS AT HONIARA'S HENDERSON AIRPORT

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (April 9, 2002 - SIBC/PINA Nius Online)---Worries about security at Honiara's Henderson Airport have increased after incidents at the domestic terminal yesterday.

Passengers who had booked seats were forced to miss a flight because other people forcibly took over the seats.

When the pilot protested there was a threat to spray the terminal with bullets.

No one was hurt during the confusion at the terminal. But a witness described the incident as frightening and said Solomon Islands airport security should be improved.

The airport tension comes amid continuing law and order problems despite a peace agreement ending two years of Guadalcanal-Malaita ethnic conflict.

Hundreds of high-powered weapons are still unaccounted for.

They include those taken from the main police armory in the June 2000 coup. At that time elements of the paramilitary police field force joined Malaita Eagle Force militia in taking over Honiara in what was called a joint operation.

* In Parliament, new Finance Minister Laurie Chan said devaluation of the Solomon Islands dollar is secondary on the government's agenda to revive the ailing economy.

He was answering a question about whether the Central Bank supported the government's revocation of the 25 percent devaluation of the dollar.

Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza sacked the then Finance Minister, Michael Maina, following concern within the government over the devaluation.

Mr. Chan said the government will concentrate on the real economic sectors of cocoa, fisheries, timber, copra and what little manufacturing it has.

He said focusing on foreign reserves, although very important, is merely an indicator for the real economic activities, such as in the export sector.

Both Mr Maina and Central Bank had said the devaluation was needed because of the country's fast dwindling foreign reserves.

Mr. Chan also revealed that an expert will be flying into the country today to assist the Central Bank in the administration of its exchange controls.

Mr. Chan said if government does not address the export sector, the Solomon Islands dollars will continue to decline.

Mr. Chan said the government wants to work with the necessary institutions that would address the issues, and merge the monetary approach of the Central Bank with the fiscal approach of the government.

* The Independent Group in Parliament said it opposes the cash-strapped government's plan to close the country's high commission in Australia.

The group's leader, Gordon Darcy Lilo, said the proposed closure indicates a shift in foreign policy and can send the wrong signals to international donors.

Mr. Lilo said the Solomon Islands has benefited a lot from Australia through projects and programs worth millions of dollars.

Mr. Lilo said not having a high commission in Australia will also make links with other financial and development institutions harder.

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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