By Savea Sano Malifa

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Aug. 12) - No one expects the Solomons' bloody troubles to end peacefully. Everyone knows it will take a concerted effort by the Australian-led intervention forces to restore law and order in that volatile country.

Reports received on Sunday were far from encouraging. They say Papua New Guinean supporters of terrorist Harold Keke entered an office of the country's biggest newspaper, the Post-Courier, threatened an award-winning reporter by pressing a combat knife against her throat, and ransacked the office.

Reporter Gorethy Kenneth was presented with a Special Award in the recent Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) convention in Apia, for her coverage of PNG's 2002 general elections. The knife-wielding attacker was one of four who claimed to be "hardcore commanders from Panguna" in Bougainville.

They were apparently angry with reports and photographs of Harold Keke carried by the Post- Courier last week. The material had been sent from the paper's correspondent in Honiara, Eric Kone.

Papua New Guinea's news media have reported links between Keke and elements in Bougainville, just across the sea border from the Solomon Islands. Bougainville is where thousands of lives were lost in a civil war between the Bougainvillean rebels and Papua New Guinea forces.

It's understood that before the militants left, they threatened to return and burn the office if the paper did not stop publishing news about warlord Keke and Bougainville.

Interestingly enough, Ms Kenneth is also from Bougainville, where the Post-Courier office that was ransacked is located. Which means the Solomons' ethnic conflict has spread precariously to even more turbulent PNG.

And in that predicament, the conflict could spark new clashes between PNG armed forces, now in Solomon Islands, and Bougainvillean rebels who are said to be sympathetic to Harold Keke. And there lays the confounding complexities now facing the Australian-led forces.

And so as the Samoan government is preparing to send a police contingent to help the Australians and their allies capture Keke, it has to sit down and give the matter a hard and serious thought. What can 15 police officers - is that the number the government has settled on - with no training in military warfare do to help?

Bear in mind that Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and even Tonga, have armies with soldiers well-trained in warfare.

Fijian soldiers, for instance, back from peace-keeping duties in the Middle East, are no doubt urging to fly to the jungles of Guadalcanal in search of warlord Keke.

It's understood that the well-prepared and much experienced Fijians were among the first anyway to respond to Australia's call for help and have undergone further special training in Townsville.

We know that since the bombing massacre in Bali in which many Australian tourists perished, the Australian government has been wary of any escalating in terrorist activities in countries nearby. We share their concern and caution.

For international terrorists may use the political and ethnic instabilities in those countries to gain entry into them, and from there make their way across into Australia illegally, and do harm to its citizenry.

And in his determination that this would never happen, Prime Minister John Howard is succinctly clear about what he wants to see done. He announced publicly in Australia - and I paraphrase - that if the government would not send troops to restore order in the Solomons, who would?

And so the military intervention in the Solomons has begun. Much like the one led by President George Bush in Iraq. And will Harod Keke continue to evade capture as Saddam Hussein is managing quite well on the other side of the globe? Time will tell.

Meantime, are Samoan police officers ready for duty in a country where rebels don't seem to have respect for the sanctity of human life? That's the question for which an answer is needed urgently.

August 18, 2003

Samoa Observer:


Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment