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Rebels Give Ultimatum To SI Government

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By Duran Angiki
USP Journalism Graduate

GIZO, Solomon Islands: Disgruntled members of the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) yesterday demanded that the Solomon Islands government to pay an undisclosed amount of money promised to the militia before the coup on June 5.

The ultimatum was issued to the Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, yesterday, following the MEF members’ demonstration at Town Ground in Honiara the previous day.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday confirmed the MEF demand, adding that it had put a lot of pressure on the Prime Minister.

The militia claimed that prior to the coup, Sogavare, who was then the Leader of Opposition pledged to pay the undisclosed amount of money to the rebels after the coup.

But after the coup and the successful toppled of the former government, the current Prime Minister failed to honour the agreement.

Disgruntled members made the demand after the MEF leadership of two Malaitan lawyers, Andrew Nori and Lesley Kwaiga, started to "decommission" some of their members.

Since 1998, displaced ethnic Malaitans on Guadalcanal had been paid more than SID$50-million up until March this year for lost properties.

The lost properties was a result of a campaign against ethnic Malaitan settlers on Guadalcanal rural areas by a militant group now known as Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM).

During the IFM campaign, it resulted in more than 20,000 ethnic Malaitans displaced and more than 60 deaths.

Australia provided more than SI$20-million funding for the rehabilitation of the displaced people and the government of the Republic of China topped it up.

But the former Solomons government halted the payment after the MEF led by prominent lawyer and former failed politician, Andrew Nori, constantly changing the total package demand.

Following the brief halt, the ME compensation gradually swollen and by May this year, reached more than SID$200-million.

The spokesman said the MEF latest demand had caught the Prime Minister by surprise after only a day of a successful negotiation with the militia leadership.

On Tuesday, the government held a meeting with MEF leadership over the harassing and looting of properties of Westerners and Choisuelese in Honiara.

He said following the talk, the MEF gave the government a commitment and assurance to curb the criminal activities targeted at the two groups of people.

The Prime Minister, who hails from Choisuel Province and ethnically closer to the people of Western Solomons, expressed concern over the MEF daily criminal activities.

But the spokesman said the latest MEF demand on the government could be the end of the two-month-old government of Prime Minister Sogavare.

Political opponents of the current Prime Minister strongly believe that the split between the MEF leadership and the government was a sign of more trouble.

Political sources said the Prime Minister’s acceptance and entertaining of criminal demands at the face place had now backfired.

It was only a matter of time for the MEF leader, Andrew Nori, to just simply make his dream of becoming the country’s political head a reality.

Critics said the country was now facing the real possibility of breaking apart if the MEF leadership finally ousted the militia backed prime minister.

Since the MEF seized the country’s armoury and weapons and forced the former prime minister to resign in a coup on June 5, the current government has been seen as under the control of the MEF leadership.

+++niuswire

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