DESPERATE SOLOMON ISLANDS UNDER PRESSURE TO BECOME A WASTE DUMP

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (May 7, 2002 - PINA Nius Online)---The Solomon Islands appears to be under increasing pressure to act as a waste dump for Taiwan, its main international funder, in a continuing economic crisis.

As Australia and New Zealand withhold significant funding support because of worries over governance, law and order and accountability, it was revealed today that:

Taiwan's Economic Affairs Minister Lin Yi-fu was quoted as saying his ministry is mulling over possible sites, including the Solomon Islands, for the removal of Taiwan's nuclear waste.

Lin said that sites in Russia, Mainland China, North Korea and the Solomon Islands are among the options, the Central News Agency reported. But he stressed that the final decision has yet to be made by a committee, which must conduct detailed discussions first.

Negotiations with Russia, Mainland China, North Korea and the Solomon Islands are under way, with no set timetable, he said.

Lin's comments come as Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza heads home from a state visit to Taiwan.

Taiwan Power Company has been storing 97,000 barrels of low-radiation nuclear waste on Taiwan's Orchid Island since 1982, the Central News Agency said.

The power company had promised to relocate the waste by the end of 2002, following protests by tribal people on the island, it said.

If the nuclear waste is dumped in the Solomon Islands it would breach the Waigani Convention, which the Solomon Islands has signed.

This regional convention bans the importation of hazardous and radioactive wastes and controls the movement of hazardous and radioactive wastes in the Pacific Islands. It came into force last October 21.

Meanwhile, the Solomon Star reported pressure on Quarantine Division public servants over their decision to cancel a license allowing Taiwanese industrial waste to be brought to Makira Island.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture said: "We received a direction from the minister last week to facilitate the importation of this waste from Taiwan."

He said they immediately wrote to the Attorney General's chambers to seek legal clarification. They are now waiting for the response before doing anything.

Agriculture Minister Stephen Paeni's directive followed Cabinet approval for the dumping of the Taiwanese waste on Makira, the Solomon Star said.

Paeni was quoted as saying the government is concerned about the economic and social benefits of the deal, which he said would bring millions of dollars into the country.

Public servants working in the agriculture and quarantine divisions earlier cancelled the license because they said the imports breached the Waigani Convention.

They said the country also lacks ways to monitor and regulate the presence of waste in the ground, and lacks experts to handle the waste.

There were widespread protests from community groups when news of the plan to dump waste on Makira was first disclosed by the local news media.

The reports of possible nuclear and industrial waste imports come amid the worsening Solomons economic crisis. Problems continue despite a peace agreement ending two years of Guadalcanal-Malaita ethnic conflict.

Hundreds of high-powered weapons have still not been turned in. Key industries remain closed, exports are down, and the country's foreign reserves are falling.

Efforts to revive tourism have just been hit by another alert warning New Zealanders against visiting the Solomon Islands because of the law and order problems.

The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade singled out the capital, Honiara, the rest of Guadalcanal, and Malaita and Western provinces.

It warned New Zealanders not to visit these areas without first contacting the New Zealand High Commission in Honiara.

High-powered weapons are known to be in Guadalcanal and Malaita and crime is a serious problem, the ministry said in an advisory.

"Crime, especially crime against property, is endemic. Foreign nationals, including New Zealanders, have been victims of ongoing crime, including violent crime," it said.

The Solomon Islands police had "a limited capacity to respond to criminal activities," it noted and said hot spots were likely to flare up without warning.

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

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