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Solomon Is Govt Secretly Pays Funds To MEF Lawyer

Solomon Is Govt Secretly Pays Funds To MEF Lawyer

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By Duran Angiki

GIZO, Solomon Is (WP): The Solomon Islands government has secretly paid SBD$113,000 to the leader and lawyer of the ethic Malaita militia, the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF), Andrew Nori, reports Wantok Press.

Solomon Islands' government sources said Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, through the Ministry of Finance, ordered the transaction.

Financial sources said the Central Bank of Solomon Islands (CBSI), carried out the Prime Minister's directive and transferred the money to Nori's account.

The payment was part of Nori's claim of about SBD$1 million to the government as a fee for his legal services to the ethnic Malaitan militants, MEF.

Following the MEF leader's submission, the Prime Minister and Nori negotiated and finally agreed on an undisclosed package to be paid on installment basis.

Sources said it was not clear whether or not the MEF other legal adviser, Lesley Kwaiga, would also receive any payment from the money for his services to the MEF.

Wantok Press was unable to contact Kwaiga yesterday for comment.

Since the MEF forced out the former government in a coup on June 5, Nori is reported to have submitted a number of compensation demands besides his personal claim.

The MEF compensation package included SBD$200 million for the damage caused to ethnic Malaitan properties in the rural areas of Guadalcanal since 1998.

And an additional compensation package of SBD$5.5 million for alleged swearing by the Guadalcanal militants group, Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM), against ethnic Malaitans in 1999.

Besides the MEF compensation demands of SBD$200 million for damaged properties and the SBD$5.5 million for IFM swearing, Nori also submitted his personal claim to the government of SBD$1 million.

The initial compensation package for damage properties began with less than SBD$20 million in 1998 and increased to SBD$70 million and then raised to SBD$150 million and finally ended at SBD$200 million.

The former government of Bartholomew Ulufa’alu at the end of 1998 paid more than SBD$17 million to the displaced ethnic Malaitans as part of the compensation for damaged properties.

Since the new regime took office two months ago, it immediately paid SBD$6.8 million to the Malaita provincial government back militia as part of various compensation demands.

Sources said the Ministry of Finance ordered the CBSI to transfer the first installment payment to the operational account of the MEF lawyer’s legal firm, Bridge Lawyers, Barristers & Solicitors.

The first payment was raised during the same week where the Solomon Islands Prime Minister had to cancel a trip to the United Nations Millennium Summit in the US.

Critics said the decision by the government to pay the SBD$133,000 to the MEF leader despite claims of financial problem only showed the hypocrisy of the current regime.

A fortnight ago, the Prime Minister also stopped 100 Solomon Islands continuing students from returning to the University of the South Pacific campus in Suva, Fiji, due to financial difficulties.


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