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By Robert Iroga

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Nov. 12, 2002 - Solomon Star/PINA Nius Online)---Solomon Islands Deputy Commissioner Police Operations Wilfred Akao said wanted rebel leader Harold Keke can’t escape as police officers and ex-militants are closing in on him.

Akao assured that his officers are making every effort to capture the Guadalcanal Liberation Front leader alive.

His assurance came amidst concerns some people want Keke dead because he knows a lot about how the ethnic conflict in Solomon Islands began and who was behind this.

Akao said Keke is wanted for a number of crimes including the assassination of government minister Father Augustine Geve and others on Guadalcanal's Weather Coast.

Akao said the joint-operation by police and ex-militants is going on very well at the Weather Coast but has been affected by bad weather.

He could not reveal how many officers are involved in the hunt but said there is a good number.

Akao said he is not in favor of the suggestions by East Kwaio member of parliament from Malaita, Alfred Sasako, that the international community should be involved in bringing Keke in.

Sasako suggested that the international community together with the members of the Brotherhood of the Church of Melanesia should help, urging Keke to give himself up.

Sasako said Keke is a walking encyclopedia of the architects of the events, which precipitated the coup in 2000, a coup that has brought untold sufferings to thousands of Solomon Islanders.

Sasako said: "It appears that the ongoing police operation to get Keke has only one purpose - to eliminate him so that all the information he has is buried with him.

"To ensure that Keke lives to tell his side of the story, the international community has a moral duty to ensure Keke is given the opportunity."

But Akao said police, with the Melanesian Brothers working on their side, are continuing their mission.

Akao said the police force is now in control of law and order with the support of the community.

He said with the help of police, people in the Weather Coast area can now move freely.

Akao said Keke is only controlling a small place and his officers are getting close to him.

But Sasako said Keke stands little chance of surviving the current police operation because there are elements which want to get rid of him for obvious reasons.

He said he supported in principle the stance taken by the former Malaita Eagle Force commanders that everything possible should be done to capture Keke alive.

Sasako said this is because they want to get to the bottom of who instigated the problems on Guadalcanal.

Sasako said: "Accordingly, I support the statement reportedly made by Government House last week calling for a commission of inquiry to be established immediately so that people like Keke can have an opportunity to tell his story. Importantly, those responsible for instigating the civil upheaval and the coup should be made to account for their action.

"I do not think that Harold Keke should be singled out and be made a scapegoat."

Sasako said it would be a tragedy if Keke were to be killed because those behind the problems could then walk free.

"For this reason, the international community as a neutral party should be involved in the hunt for Keke, ensuring he is talked into giving himself up peacefully," he said.

In other news, the increasing efforts to strengthen law and order in Solomon Islands were boosted in Honiara with 16 participants completing a prosecutors course

This was supported by the Law and Justice Institutional Strengthening Program and AusAID.

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

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