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MEF Seizes Humanitarian Supplies

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By Duran Angiki
USP Journalism Graduate

GIZO, Solomon Islands: Armed militiamen of the Malaita Eagle Force have held up a Solomon Airlines flight bound for Southeast Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands and stolen all the cargo, including humanitarian supplies.

The raid took place on Monday at the Solomon Islands' only international airport, Henderson, 12 kilometers east of the country’s capital, Honiara.

Solomon Airlines officials yesterday confirmed that armed thugs carried out the robbery of humanitarian supplies.

Most of the stolen cargo was medicine sent by Guadalcanal women who travelled to Honiara after the signing of the cease-fire agreement a fortnight ago.

Over the past 20-months of the ethnic conflict in Honiara between the Malaitan Eagle Force (MEF) and Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM), the MEF cut-off services to the entire island of Guadalcanal.

The MEF blockade had put people of Guadalcanal in dire need of basic goods like soap, salt, kerosene, cloths and medical supplies.

Since the signing of cease-fire between the MEF and IFM, some women of the more than 50,000 population of Guadalcanal flocked to Honiara to get basic needs.

Following the looting of the air cargo, the Minister of Culture, Tourism and Aviation, Johnson Koli, who is from the same area, informed his people of the looting in a radio message.

According to the airline, the cargo was bound for the coastal domestic airport of Avu’avu, in the Hae-Marau area, about a 35-minute flight from

Henderson airport.

Prior to the looting of the goods, the air services tried twice unsuccessfully to airlift the cargo due to bad weather and poor conditions of the Avu’avu airport runway.

The airlines confirmed that it was on the third day that MEF armed militia turned up at the airport and held the flight from taking-off and off-loaded it.

The MEF militiamen took the cargo and loaded their vehicles and left under heavy armed escort back to their base at Lelei Resort, West Honiara.

Solomon Airlines officials confirmed yesterday that following the looting it had been decided to cancel all scheduled flights to the coastal domestic airport of Avu’avu.

The airlines took the precautionary measure for fear of retaliation by the rival militia group, the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM) against the air services.

Since yesterday, the Solomon Islands government and the airlines’ management said they have unsuccessfully negotiated with the militia to release the

cargo.

The airlines’ management said it had done all it could to but unable because the militia men had consistently refused to cooperate.

The MEF latest looting followed similar sporadic daily robbery in Honiara carried out by members of the Malaitan Provincial government backed militia.

Yesterday, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce, Employment and Trade, Jeffery Wickham, confirmed that the MEF had ransacked his house.

The MEF stole everything in the house, included louver blades, curtains,

fritz, stove, cooking utensil, clothes, television-set, stereo system, furniture and the family vehicle.

He said the reason for the looting of his property was purely on the ground that he was from the Western Solomons.

A fortnight ago, the MEF engaged in an ethnic campaign of harassing and looting property belonging to the people of Western Solomons and Choiseul Island in Honiara.

This follows the MEF claim that people of Western Solomons and Choiseul Island had been harassing ethnic Malaitans in both states.

Western Solomons Police Commander, Aloysius Ora, strongly refuted the claim and said the militia had only used the allegation to legitimize their criminal activities in Honiara.

But although the Western Solomons police had strongly refuted the basis of the MEF action, it did not deter the daily looting and criminal activities targeted on people of both states.

Early this week, the MEF stripped to the ground a property in Honiara belonging to a popular local musician from the Western Solomons, Ninamo Otuana.

The only sign of the house, located few kilometers from the Headquarters of the Solomon Islands Police Force and the Rove Market in West Honiara, were the posts.

Since yesterday, the situation in Honiara has been reported to be quietened down with the exception of sporadic robbery of properties in and around town.

Early this week, the Archbishop of the Catholic Church in the Solomons, Archbishop Adrian Smith, expressed disappointment over the MEF looting of two vehicles from his property.

The MEF daily hijacking of vehicles and looting of property in Honiara had caused a wide spread fear amongst the business community and civilians society.

It reported that the daily MEF roadblocks are still intact and the biggest threat now in Honiara has been the presence of armed militia.

+++niuswire

This document is for educational and research use only. Recipients should seek permission from the copyright source before reprinting. PASIFIK NIUS service is provided by the niusedita via the Journalism Program, University of the South Pacific. Please acknowledge Pasifik Nius: niusedita@pactok.net.au http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/nius/index.html


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