Solomons Government To Pay Ex-Militants $37 Million

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Sogavare says payment only means to ‘lasting peace’

By Elliot Dawea And Eddie Osifelo

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Dec. 27, 2015) – The Government has agreed to pay ex-militants from Malaita and Guadalcanal $300 million [US$37 million], well-placed sources from the Prime Minister’s Office say.

Up to 2,000 ex-combatants are likely to benefit, with each receiving $150,000 [US$ 18,600] each.

[PIR editor’s note: On Dec. 29, 2015 Solomon Star reported that ‘The only way the country can achieve lasting peace is for the Democratic Coalition for Change (DCC) Government to settle the outstanding payments with the ex-combatants and their rehabilitation package. ... Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare told this paper in an exclusive interview adding, the issue had been long over due and the payment is important to settle the ex-combatants’ due once and for all.’]

Members of the now defunct Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) received part of this package last Thursday when Cabinet approved $3 million [US$ 372,300] in "goodwill" payment for them.

Each of the former MEF received $1,100 [US$137], which some critics described as "Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s Christmas gift to the ex-militants".

The payment was made to the ex-militants outside the Multi-purpose Hall in Honiara.

Minister for National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace, Sam Maneka confirmed to the Sunday Star the $3 million came from his ministry’s budget.

"Cabinet sanctioned the payment," Maneka said.

"The $3 million came under a budget for rehabilitation in my ministry," he added.

Maneka said cabinet approved the payment after a body representing the former MEF made a request to the government.

However, Maneka said the government is still to come up with the full rehabilitation package for ex-combatants of MEF, Isatabu Freedom Movement and Marau Eagle Force.

"Our advisers and officials in the ministry are still working with the ex-combatants of Malaita and Guadalcanal to come up with an agreed package.

"Once we come up with the final package, the $3 million received by MEF will be deducted from it," he said.

Maneka said Guadalcanal ex-combatants will receive their share after the package is finalised.

Meanwhile, sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said the Sogavare government is basically honour a promise the former Kemakeza government promised the militants.

"The Kemakeza government promised the former militants $150,000 per head," one source said.

"Governments that came after Kemakeza failed to live up to that promise. This government wants to settle this issue once and for all so that we can move on," the source said.

The source claimed the government is looking at making the first payment to the ex-militants in January 2016 and the second in July.

The policy to rehabilitate ex-militants was part of the Townsville Peace Agreement signed by former ex-combatants of MEF and Isatabu Freedom Movement of Guadalcanal on 15 October 2000 in Townsville, Australia.

While ex-MEF militants who received their share of the $3 million left the payment venue with smiles, others expressed disagreement.

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