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Solomons: MEF Militant Shooting Halts Rugby Match

USP Pacific Journalism Online: http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/ USP Journalism on the Fiji crisis (UTS host): http://www.journalism.uts.edu.au/archive/coup.html USP Pasifik Nius stories on Scoop (NZ): http://www.scoop.co.nz/international.htm Have your say: http://www.TheGuestBook.com/vgbook/109497.gbook

By Duran Angiki

USP Journalism Graduate

GIZO, Solomon Islands (WP): A rugby match between the New Zealand Navy and a Honiara select side was abandoned when ethnic Malaitan militants went on firing spree, scaring players and spectators.

The incident yesterday afternoon gave the New Zealand visitors a first-hand experience of the "lawlessness" in the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara.

The 15-a-side match between the Honiara select and the crew of the New Zealand frigate Te Kaha was half way when the incident happened.

Te Kaha has been in the country's waters for more than a week, providing a neutral venue for pre-cease fire peace talks and also ready to host the forthcoming planned negotiations between the rival ethnic militia, the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM) and MEF.

Eyewitnesses said MEF militants were travelling on a vehicle toward the Panatina playing ground when they started firing shots indiscriminately into the air.

Immediately, players and supporters of the New Zealand frigate team took

cover in and outside the ground, while the locals appeared to be confused about the incident.

Local players and spectators soon took cover in a nearby groove of trees as criminals’ show no sign of retreat, forcing a general panic amongst the officials who decided to abandon the game.

The incident, at Panatina in the Naradi industrial area, East Honiara, followed a number of similar MEF criminal activities that rampaged Honiara over the last three months.

On Thursday early morning, two armed factions of ethnic Malaitans engaged in a brawl that resulted in a shoot out just outside a night club in downtown Honiara.

Police confirmed that the same groups, several hours later, re-engaged in a shoot out just out side the Solomon Islands National Referral hospital in Honiara.

Both ethnic Malaitan groups’ attempt to get medical assistance for their

wounded members caused the clash outside the hospital.

During the two clashes, one instantly killed and five ethnic Malaitans were admitted with serious injuries.

One of the factions, whose member was shot dead, bashed up a hospital police security officer of Florida Islands ethnic group and damaged a computer in the hospital.

The shoot out at the hospital prompted the authorities to close down some of their services to the public.

In a similar incident, armed criminal Malaitans beat up the education officer of Guadalcanal Province, Gad Sa’onuku, at Henderson Airport.

A relative of the victim yesterday confirmed that the officer, who is from the ethnic Polynesian group of Rennell and Bellona, in the Southern Solomons, got beaten as he prepared to board a flight.

The criminal incidences’ climax the slump in the law and order problems in Honiara carried out by Malaitan criminals last week following two major robberies.

Police confirmed that MEF members held up the Honiara Casino at gunpoint and stole SID$100,000 and later robbed SID$20,000 from the Commodity Export Marketing (CEMA) in the same way.

The skyrocketing of MEF criminal activities and violence in Honiara has enforced a difficult task on the unarmed police in the Solomons to maintain law and order.

Since the MEF took over the police armoury and forced the former Bartholomew Ulufa'alu led government to step down in a coup on June 5, MEF militants foiled a campaign to control criminals.

The MEF-backed government attempt over the past three months to get the warring parties to agree on a peace-agreement has been overshadowed by escalating violence against innocent people in Honiara.

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