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Young Guadalcanal Leader Welcomes Peace Agreement

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By Duran Angiki USP's Pacific Journalism Online correspondent

GIZO, Western Solomons (WP): The Member of Parliament for Central Guadalcanal, Walton Naezon, in the war-torn island of the Solomons, has applauded delegations of both ethnic groups who signed the Townsville Peace Agreement.

Malaita and Guadalcanal provinces with members of their ethnic militia, the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) and Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM), signed the agreement in Townsville, Australia, on October 15.

"The agreement is a blessing from God almighty as the result of many prayers from the Christian populace of the Solomon Islands, who had been asking God for the return of peace and harmony," Naezon said.

As a national leader, who spoke strongly about peace and respect in a harmonious society, he said it was equally important for both parties to successfully implement the agreement.

Guadalcanal militants, led by Harold Keke and Joseph Sagu, began driving out ethnic Malaitans from the rural areas of Guadalcanal in February 1998.

The militancy was triggered by claims that ethnic Malaitans had "disrespect" for Guadalcanal people and culture, were illegal settling of land, and killing innocent people.

More than 20,000 ethnic Malaitans were displaced with about 60 people reportedly killed, which resulted in the formulation of the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF).

The tension further escalated following MEF coup on June 5, which lead to the MEF seizing of the Solomons police weapons and forcing of the former Prime Minister to resign.

Following 21 months of ethnic fighting that resulted in the total break down in law and order in Honiara, the MEF and IFM signed the peace agreement, aiming at ending the conflict.

But Naezon warned of some flaws in the agreement that "misinterpret" the

original grievances of the Guadalcanal people.

"Ignorance by successive governments to address Guadalcanal people's grievances was dated back to 1978 and not 1988 as stated, not the then government's inaction but by governments'" inaction.

He said the claim that "the inability on the part of then government to resolve the outstanding grievances and demands of the displaced Malaitans is not true".

"The former government had addressed the issue cautiously but there were issues that need proper justification and legality," he said.

Naezon disagrees with the re-engagement and amnesty to de facto officers of the Royal Solomon Islands Police who took part in the coup on June 5.

"This is an act of treason - the argument is based on a legal precedent that will set for future failures of the National Security," he said.

+++niuswire


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