KEKE SURRENDERS TO SOLOMONS INTERVENTION FORCE

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By Julian Makaa

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (The National, Aug. 14) – The
Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) yesterday morning
arrested Harold Keke and 10 members of his gang at Mbiti village on the Weather
Coast of Guadalcanal.

The head of RAMSI Nick Warner, who served as Australian High
Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, announced the arrest of Keke and his men on
live radio just after 5 p.m. yesterday. He also held a separate media briefing
to inform local and international press of the surrender and arrest of the
militant warlord who has been waging a reign of terror among his people for the
last four years.

Warner said that Keke and his men surrendered at 8 a.m. and were
put on board the HMAS Manoora that is due back in Honiara from the Weather Coast
today.

Warner said, " Harold has been charged and will be kept in
a safe house until he stands trial." 

He said along with Keke, his deputy, secretary and members of
his close family also, in total ten are onboard the Manoora.

He said the Mbiti villagers were delighted when Keke and his men
surrendered. They had turned out in great numbers to witness the hand over of
the weapons to RAMSI.

"One ex-militant raised his arms in the air and happily
shouted 'the war is over' and between 40 to 50 of his supporters joined in
unison and also shouted," said Warner.

Warner said that RAMSI had achieved a lot in the three weeks but
yesterday's surrender was "a very significant day for the road to lasting
peace."

He said all Solomon Islanders were sick and tired of the
fighting and the troubles that ensued and this is true for all the people
everywhere in the country. He said, "People want peace to have a
chance."

"Keke said he wanted to face justice in court so that
people could understand the cause for which he'd been fighting. And we would
ensure that the day he is in court is fair," added Warner.

He also said that within the three weeks, RAMSI had notched up
many notable successes, but it's too early yet to declare its mission was
over. 

Also speaking on radio, Lt Col John Frewen, head of the military
operation of RAMSI, said men from all the countries for the operation had
supported negotiations and played a key part in the final surrender of the GLF
leader and members. 

Frewen applauded Keke and his men for peacefully coming forward.
He said that it was evident that Keke's men were highly capable and disciplined.

Frewen confirmed that of the almost 40 weapons surrendered by a
number of them were general light arms, some self-loads, some shotguns and
grenade launchers. "The weapons are all serviceable," he said.

"I would also like to say that we have established a post
at Auki on Malaita and Avu Avu on the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal. Today, we
also established one at Kolina, also on the Weather Coast and in a few days time
we hope to set up posts at Tari, again on the Weather Coast, and Gold Ridge on
Central Guadalcanal.

"I reiterate that the soldiers will support the police and
I ask all Solomon Islanders to support and trust the police," he said.

Warner also called on all Solomon Islanders who may have any
knowledge about the "large number of horrendous crimes committed during the
past years" to report them to RAMSI.

"We will investigate them and conduct interviews so that
those who committed them could be punished. And I want to again emphasize that
RAMSI is a neutral and strong force and we rely on Solomon Islanders to come
forward," said Warner.

Warner also repeated his message to ex-militants that RAMSI's
mandate is that "there would be no negotiations, deals or
compromises."

August 14, 2003

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

 

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