SOLOMONS PM KEMAKEZA CONFIRMS FUNDING OF MISSION TO CATCH KEKE

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Oct. 24, 2002 - SIBC/PINA Nius Online)---Guadalcanal rebel leader Harold Keke is wanted captured alive so he can answer for what he has done, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza said.

Sir Allan confirmed the government has authorized SOL$100,000 (US$13,750) for the operation to catch the Guadalcanal Liberation Front leader.

Keke and his men are accused of a series of killings, including the execution of Cabinet Minister Father Augustine Geve.

Sir Allan said the joint operation by police and former militants on the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal is getting closer to Keke.

Keke and his men did not join the peace agreement ending more than two years of ethnic conflict between Guadalcanal and Malaitan militia forces. Until recent defections from his force, Keke controlled much of the rugged Weather Coast area.

Sir Allan said the government supported the operation to capture Keke after communication between Keke and a government-appointed special envoy, West Honiara MP Yukio Sato, broke down.

This followed the massacre of 10 Malaitan men trying to capture Keke and claim a bounty and the killing of Father Geve, the MP for South Guadalcanal.

Meanwhile, the Government has been criticized for not informing the Weather Coast people about the joint operation by police, former Isatambu Freedom Movement militants, and Guadalcanal Liberation Front defectors.

Father Francis Tugagua, of the Church of Melanesia, told SIBC News that the operation is causing difficulties for innocent people.

Many have run away to seek refuge in the bush while others had been killed, said Father Tugagua, who worked on the Weather Coast the past four years.

Father Tugagua said the joint operation is causing much suffering. He questioned who will be paying compensation for the civilians who were killed in it.

In other developments:

· Sir Allan announced the tentative date for the next Parliament meeting, 2-20 December.

· Marijuana users on the Weather Coast did not know that it is illegal, Rose Maebiru, of Save the Children Fund, told a meeting in Honiara. Ms Maebiru and a volunteer peer educator, David Rex, said this was revealed during a workshop on the Weather Coast . As a result of the workshop, participants destroyed many marijuana plants around their villages, they said.

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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