Guadalcanal Militants Refuse To Release Aircraft
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By Duran Angiki USO Journalism Graduate
GIZO, Solomon islands (WP): The Solomon Islands government yesterday once again failed to persuade hijackers of a Solomon Airlines aeroplane to release the aircraft and its pilot.
Instead, the breakaway faction of the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM) agreed to release the pilot, Captain Eric Rove of Roviana lagoon in the Western Solomons, without the aircraft.
This follows the government negotiation team failure to pay the militants compensation demand.
Following the hijacking of the aircraft on Saturday, the militants demanded SBD$2 million for the safe release of the aircraft and the pilot.
During tense negotiations between the National Security Council and the militants yesterday the Guadalcanal militia stood firm on its demand.
Speaking in a two-way radio yesterday afternoon, a militant spokesman said the militants no longer trusted the chairman of the National Security Council and Minister of National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace, Alan Kemakeza.
The hijacking of the aircraft had been forced by the militants’ dissatisfaction over Kemakeza failure to fulfil his many promises to the
Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM).
Since June, Kemakeza promised that the government would disarm the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) if the Guadalcanal militants sign the current cease-fire agreement.
He said the IFM commanders signed the agreement and since then, MEF militants were still armed and still carrying out criminal activities and blockades of humanitarian supplies to all parts of Guadalcanal.
The spokesman said the IFM breakaway faction had been disappointed by the government paying SBD$1.8 million to an illegal group like the MEF.
If the government and minister could easily pay millions of dollars to an illegal group like MEF, then why not just give in the Guadalcanal militia their demand, he added.
Kemakeza’s failure to fulfil his past promises has made the IFM breakaway faction from south-west Guadalcanal more determined.
The spokesman said the militants had arranged transport for the pilot to be taken to a destination and the airline would pick him up and return him to Honiara.
The militants seized the aircraft and its local pilot at Babanakira airport, in the South-west Coast of the war-torn island of Guadalcanal on Saturday.
Reports said the militia hijacked the aircraft after it landed at the domestic airport, located about 35-minute from the country’s international airport, Henderson, in East Honiara.
Kemakeza declined to comment, referring all questions to the Prime Minister’s Office.
The IFM and MEF, last Thursday ended two weeks of peace-negotiation on board the New Zealand navy frigate, Te Kaha, off the coast of Honiara Point Cruiz harbour.
Both militia groups agreed on the decision to give their lawyers time to
review the issues that would be the basis of a proposed peace-talk in Australia within a fortnight time.