More Arrests Made In Solomons Election Shooting

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Four suspects charged with firing on boat full of MPs

By Assumpta Buchanan

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Sept. 11, 2015) – Police have arrested and remanded two more suspects as investigations into the Mbike island shooting widens.

Harrison Niumalefo and Billy Kanakana Ringasui appeared at the Honiara Magistrate’s Court, Thursday on charges of attempted murder, willful and unlawful damage of property, attempt to destroy property by explosives, possession of firearm without firearm licence, possession of ammunition without firearm license, discharging firearm in public, and one count of arson.

This latest arrest this week brings the total number of suspects to four.

The first accused, alleged to be the boat skipper, Jim Aita, was arrested earlier this year following the shooting incident last December.

He faces similar charges as the pair who were arrested this week. He was already committed to stand trial in the High Court.

Two weeks ago, police also arrested Julyn Mika, 29, and charged her with one count of aiding and abetting.

She was remanded to reappear in court today, while Niumalefo and Ringasui will return to the court on September 24.

Prosecution alleged Julyn supplied fuel to the group of men, including the three accused, who carried out the shooting at Mbike island.

Police alleged Mika looked after the Bare Foot fuel depot, which was on an island located in the Gela Group.

The fuel depot is owned by the Member of Parliament (MP) for North Malaita Jimmy Lusibaea.

It was alleged that between 2am and 3am of 9 December, a group of armed men arrived at the resort in a fiberglass boat with firearms and discriminately fired at Sun Express boat and towards the resort.

On the afternoon of 8 December, the Sun Express, a boat operating under the Breakwater Cafe in Honiara, transported the 17 MPs to Mbike Island.

The MPs were out on a retreat ahead of the Prime Minister’s election the next day.

It was alleged that soon after the gun firing, the armed men, including Aita, poured petrol at the back of Sun Express before setting it alight.

But the fire flame returned to their boat from the poured fuel.

Out of fear and danger, the men allegedly threw out two filled containers of fuel that bears the name Bare Foot on them into the sea and quickly fled the scene.

It was alleged that crew members of Sun Express boat swiftly attended to their boat and put off the fire just in time.

They inspected the fast craft and after realising it was still safe for travel, the MPs and others at the resort boarded it back to Honiara just in time to take part in the election.

Police also alleged Aita and his group fled Mbike Island back to Bare Foot fuel depot.

There, police alleged the group burned the outboard motor canoe they used in this mission for the purpose of concealing the identity of the boat, and its owner.

It was further alleged that on about 10am of December 9, Aita and other suspects were transported to Honiara on a private boat.

Police Commissioner Frank Prendergast, Thursday told the media inquiries into those individuals and other people involved in the Mbike shooting are on-going.

"This inquiry is still a very active one," Mr Prendergast said.

The police chief appeal to the public to pass on any information they may have to assist the police in their inquiry.

"We need assistance from the community in these types of investigations," he said.

Mr Prendergast said he is comfortable with the progress of the inquiry and said these arrests are indications that the investigation is moving forward.

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