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Solomons: Archbishop Condemns 'Lawlessness'

Solomons: Archbishop Condemns 'Lawlessness'

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By Duran Angiki USP Journalism Graduate

GIZO, Solomon Islands: The Archbishop of the Catholic Church in the Solomon Islands, Archbishop Adrian Smith, has condemned the culprits of the general “lawlessness” in the country’s capital, Honiara.

This follows armed criminals firing shots close to the Catholic Church cathedral in downtown Honiara on Wednesday.

“This kind of lawlessness has become part of life here in Honiara,” the archbishop said

Archbishop Smith revealed that he found out later in a recent meeting of the Solomon Islands Christian Association (SICA) that drunken men fired the shots.

Since the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) took over the Solomon Islands Police Force armoury in a coup on June 5, it has caused the deterioration of law and order in Honiara.

Two days after the coup, the Malaitan group, led by failed politician and lawyer, Andrew Nori, declared an all out war against rival militia, the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM) of Guadalcanal Island.

The MEF and IFM had been engaged in an ethnic conflict over the past 20-month due to dispute over land occupied by ethnic Malaitans in the rural areas of Guadalcanal.



The conflicts led to the displacement of 20,000 ethnic Malaitans from the rural areas of Guadalcanal and more than 60 deaths from both sides.

A fortnight ago, both militia signed a cease-fire agreement, paving the way for peace talks but failed to stop the daily criminal activities carried out by MEF members in Honiara.

The drastic deterioration of law and order in Honiara forced many innocent foreigners, investors and local people to flee the national capital in fear for their safety.

But the worsening problem has led to the archbishop expressing “devastation” over the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) looting of humanitarian goods bound for the people of Southeast Guadalcanal.

“People from the Weather Coast had sent money from various people to purchase needs for their families,” he said.

“These goods were loaded on a Solomon Islands Aircraft to go to Avu’avu last Saturday.

“Because of the bad weather at Avu’avu on the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal, the flight had to be cancelled - in the meantime, the MEF seized all the cargo," he added.

Archbishop Smith said stolen cattle from St Joseph's Tenaru School, a Catholic Church ran institution, about 15 kilometers east of Honiara, had been resold in butcher shops in Honiara.

“It seems that in certain Butchery outlets in Honiara we could buy back quite a lot of our stolen herd from St. Joseph’s Tenaru area.”

He alleged that: “New chain saws can be bought for about SBD$1,000 each” and “computers can be had for as low as SBD$300 each.”

The archbishop said the “lack of law and order continues to haunt Honiara,” citing the continuing threats, looting and hijacking of properties by MEF from innocent civilians.

He said the “virtual blockade of food to assist people in either East or West of Honiara is a direct breach of the spirit of the cease-fire agreement.

“There are, happily, instances in which those manning the MEF roadblocks allow women to come into Honiara and to procure some food.

But he added: “The mood of those on the road blocks is unreliable, and so any positive plan for relief is difficult to organize.”

“The danger of large scale confiscation of relief supplies makes it extremely difficult for those willing to help, to be able to carry out an organized program.”

Next week the warring parties involved in the ethnic conflicts on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands will meet to negotiate a peace package to resolve the 20-month conflict.

Australia and New Zealand had been assisting the Solomons since then with logistical support by providing warships as meeting venues for the conflicting militia.

Yesterday, the New Zealand warship, Tekaha, arrived in the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara, as a venue for pre-cease-fire talks starting this coming weekend.

+++niuswire

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