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By Robert L. Iroga

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, May 2) – The Solomon Islands Participating Police Force (PPF) is pulling out of Yandina, the scene of bitter violence by workers and police early this year.

[Yandina is the main town in the Russell Islands].

PPF, which comes under the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), could not be reached to confirm the withdrawal last night but the Russell Islands Plantations Estate Ltd (RIPEL) confirmed receiving a letter from RAMSI effective last Friday.

General Manager of RIPEL John Whiteside said that the withdrawal would only contribute to the ongoing disregard for law and order. He claimed that the withdrawal could also be political.

"One of my managers has said that a RAMSI-PPF officer at Yandina told him that the issue was more political than anything else," the manager said from his hotel last night.

Mr Whiteside also alleged that Solomon Islands police are supporting the union and striking workers against RIPEL.

He claimed that on 18, April striking workers stole a tractor and fuel at the Yandina Police Station.

"I do not trust nor have any faith in the ability of [Solomons police] Yandina to deal with law and order issues that are plaguing RIPEL," Mr Whiteside said.

Mr Whiteside has also questioned the grounds of withdrawal by RAMSI police from Yandina.

He said there are other PPF locations in the country that lack water and power and the PPF had to provide for this themselves.

Mr Whiteside said he did not know why they have to pull out from Yandina.

He said that there is no power, water and because there is no fuel for water pump and generators.

"Because the union and its supporters are stopping any production and any export of copra and cocoa and since there is no production that follows that there is no money to buy fuel," he said.

Striking workers at RIPEL remained defiant and refused to resume work despite a High Court order, which ruled against the strike last year.

The workers are blocking the company from exporting any of its products.

Mr Whiteside said RIPEL supplied water and power free of charge for PPF.

"You can’t expect RIPEL to continue to supply free water and power when the union does not allow RIPEL to operate to cover costs of water and power," the manager said.

Meanwhile Mr Whiteside claimed that there are some persons in RAMSI who are supporting the union’s efforts against RIPEL.

"Their pulling out will only lead to believing that RAMSI is supporting them," he said.

Mr Whiteside said RIPEL chairman had met with officials in Canberra who assured him that PPF would not pull out.

May 2, 2005

Solomon Star: http://www.solomonstarnews.com/


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