WEATHER COAST PEOPLE TELL OF SUFFERING UNDER KEKE

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Nov. 1, 2002 - SIBC/PINA Nius Online)---People of Guadalcanal's rugged and little developed Weather Coast are telling Solomon Islands police of suffering under the rule of rebel leader Harold Keke.

As a joint-force of police officers and former militants try to capture the Guadalcanal Liberation Front leader, police said villagers were telling them:

The police are now assisting about 3,000 people from the Weather Coast with donated food, clothing and medicines, Police Commissioner Morton Sireheti said in Honiara.

A police patrol boat has been bringing villagers who need medical attention to Honiara, he said.

The Weather Coast has been cut off and not had government services since the ethnic conflict began on Guadalcanal three years ago. Medical stations closed and there were no medicines.

The area has been under the control of Keke and his men, who did not join the peace agreement ending more than two years of fighting between Guadalcanal and Malaitan militias.

This ethnic conflict erupted after Guadalcanal militants moved against increasing Malaitan settlement on Guadalcanal, home of the capital, Honiara.

In recent months Keke has faced defections following increasing killings under his rule, plus a growing resolve by Solomon Islands police to restore law and order.

It culminated with the joint-operations by police and former militants, which opened up areas of the Weather Coast formerly under Guadalcanal Liberation Front control.

Sireheti said that the police are calling on Keke and his men to surrender.

Chaplains and pastors in the area had also tried to convince Keke that his best option was to surrender, he said.

Sireheti said if Keke and his men do not want to surrender they should let their families leave their hideout.

Sireheti revealed that the police patrol boat has brought to Honiara three men who are being questioned about activities on the Weather Coast .

Police want to question Keke over a series of killings, including the murder of Cabinet Minister Father Augustine Geve and the massacre of 10 Malaitans trying to capture Keke.

In other developments:

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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