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SOLOMON IS: 'Give up the gun' plea to comrades

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Message from militants turned students:

By Florence Kuali and Moffat Mamu: June edition
Wansolwara (USP)

SUVA (Pasifik Nius): Two key former Solomon Island militants from opposing camps — who are now University of the South Pacific students — have called on their former comrades to give up arms and come together in forgiveness, reconciliation and nation-building.

In an exclusive interview with the USP journalism programme newspaper Wansolwara, George Gray of the Isatabu Freedom Movement and Eddie Konairamo of the Malaita Eagle Force said the crisis had dragged on long enough.

Konairamo took part in the MEF’s coup in 2000 and Gray was second-in-command of the IFM’s western region.

"My message to former fighters is that the gun is not the only way to solve problems," said Gray, a bachelor of arts student. "It’s time to address the situation from a different perspective.”

Added Konairamo, a former school teacher studying education: "The militia groups should return all the guns and work together for eventual peace."

Two years of ethnic warfare, centred around land claims, has destroyed the country’s economy and caused about 100 deaths.

While fighting has ebbed since the failed Townsville Peace Agreement, the situation remains volatile.

An arms amnesty ended on Friday with monitors reporting only about 50 of 500 guns stolen from authorities two years ago having been returned.

Hundreds of high-powered automatic weapons are still in the hands of rogue elements.

Last month’s ABC Four Corners programme, "Guns and money", described the country as "ruled by the gun".

Both Gray and Konairamo distanced themselves from the armed gangs spreading terror back home.

Gray described them as “criminal elements” and “undisciplined forces” jeopardising peace.

Konairamo said the gangs should return home and engage in community projects.

Asked why they were allowed to roam free, he said: “The police are also corrupt”.

Konairamo, who joined the MEF after his uncle was killed by its rivals, said it was time to move on.

"I regret what has happend because it led to the downfall of the economy. Innocent Solomon islanders are not safe," he said.

Gray, who left studies to join his clansmen in the fight, said: "I believe in total forgiveness — to forgive and forget what happened, come together, pull together and move foward as a nation."

The Solomon Islands Students Association president, Selina Boso, praised the call.

"This is a good thing," she said. "Students, as future leaders, can play an important role in bringing peace."

Boso added that their government unable to cover USP student payments. The university is owed about $7 million.

Picture of George Gray by Wansolwara


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