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Solomon Is Government Favours 'State System'

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By Duran Angiki

GIZO, Solomon Islands: Political instability in Solomon Islands has forced the central government to consider adopting the State Government system sooner.

The government expects to be able to table a bill in November to amend the national constitution to enable this to happen.

A government delegation, which is currently touring Western Solomons, informed the state's 60,000 population over the central government plan.

"The government intends to put in place legislation that would enable the adoption of state government hopefully by January next year," said Nathaniel Waena, the Minister of Provincial government and Assisting Prime Minister.

Speaking at an interview in Gizo, the capital of Western Solomons yesterday, Mr Waena said the government has fully committed to accomplish this agenda.

Since Monday, the delegation has been holding talks with the authorities and communities of Western and Choiseul Provinces over the issue of state government.

The government delegation tour of both provinces was triggered by the recent declaration by Western and Choiseul of their intention to become state governments.

During a one-day joint meeting between the government and delegations from Western and Choisuel Provinces in Gizo, yesterday, delegations from both

provinces reaffirmed their status as state governments.

Mr Waena said: "There are no contentious issues at all,” adding; “we (the government and the provinces) are on a common ground on the issue of state government."

The delegation’s message was the government had accepted their wish but it must be done within the legal framework of the national constitution.

"Obviously any change to the current provincial government system ? must be consistent through out the country and with the constitution."

He said the push for the country to adopt state government had strongly expressed by Guadalcanal Province, Western Province, Choiseul Province, Makiara Province and Temotu.

The only exception was the case of the southern Polynesian province of the Solomon Islands, Rennell and Bellona.

The province supports any system that increases economic autonomy to the

province, but if provinces were opted for state government then it would

negotiate for political independence.

The other provinces still to be visited by the government delegation are

Malaita, Central and Isabel Provinces.

Solomon Islands is comprised of nine provinces with a total population of more than 400,000.

Since January 1998, an ethnic conflict broke out between the militants of Gaudalcanal now known as Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM) and settlers of ethnic Malaitans in the province.

The conflict resulted in the displacement of more than 20,000 ethnic Malaitan settlers and 60 deaths in the rural areas of Guadalcanal Province.

In January 1999, people claiming to be representing displaced Malaitans formed the Malaitan Eagle Force (MEF) and in June 5 this year, staged a coup and took over the Solomon Islands government and its police armory.

The developments following the coup, especially the MEF criminal activities in the country’s capital, Honiara, forced leaders of all other provinces in Solomon Islands to declare their desire for state government.

Since July this year, four provinces (Western, Choiseul, Guadalcanal and

Temotu Provinces) had declared their strong support for state government.

+++niuswire

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