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Guadalcanal Leaders Hopeful Of Peace

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By Duran Angiki
USP's Pacific Journalism Online correspondent

GIZO, Solomon Islands (WP): Lasting peace could only be achieved in the war-torn island of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands if the warring ethnic militia give peace a chance, says the island's leader.

“What we need is commitments from the Isatabu Freedom Movement and Malaita Eagle Force,” said the Premier of Guadalcanal Province, Ezekiel Alebua.

“Peace now has a chance to come to our islands and we need to respect each other and settle matters."

Alebua made the statement yesterday in front of about 500 well wishers and relatives who witnessed the arrival of the Guadalcanal delegation.

“We want peace and let there be peace in the Solomon Islands,” said Premier Alebua.

The delegation to the four days talk in Townsville had to be flown back to the Solomons by two separate Australian Airforce Hercules.

The MEF and Solomon Islands government took the first flight and arrived

back in the national capital, Honiara, on Sunday - a day earlier from the Guadalcanal group.

The Guadalcanal delegation included provincial and community leaders and

IFM commanders arrived back to a hero’s welcome ceremony at Munda airport, Western Solomons.

Munda is located on New Georgia Island. It is one of Solomon Islands’ second largest semi-international airports, built by the USA led allied force during World War II in 1942 to 1945.

Villagers jumped packed the airport terminal and surrounding area, while

about 20 Australia airforce and navy personnel coordinate the disembarking of the 40-member delegation.

Following the normal checking process through immigration and customs, Munda community and Guadalcanalese in Western Solomons held a reception for the group.

Community leaders and displaced Guadalcanal people co-host the reception

to show appreciation for the signing of the peace-agreement that aimed to end the 21-month ethnic conflict.

The Townsville Peace-Agreement becomes the seventh of its kind signed by

both ethnic groups with successive governments.

Emotions were run high as relatives in both the delegation and the displaced community of Guadalcanal, met for the first time after many months of separation.

Alebua thanked the people of Solomon Islands and in particular Western Solomons for their prayers that resulted in the signing of the peace-agreement.

He assured his colleague, Ruben Lilo, of Guadalcanal province gratitude to the government of Western Solomons for accepting displaced Guadalcanalese.

Delegation spokesman Dr Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka said: "There’s a lot to be desired but it is good to have something to start working on.

"The challenge now to the people of Guadalcanal is to go and spread the intention of the peace-agreement to the people and militants."

Dr Kabutaulaka said it was important to try to communicate this peace plan to others because the delegation needs to carry on from here.

“People are now tied of the war and they want peace and community education is very much needed.

Western Solomons Premier Ruben Lilo, who also attended the peace talks and returned with the delegation, said his government has thanked Guadalcanal Province for its commitment to peace.

He assured his counterpart of his government's commitment to resolving the ethnic crisis and warned that repeating of the conflict would not be in the best interest of Solomon Islands.

Henry Tobani, the IFM spokesman, said: "We are quite happy with the agreement.

"The biggest challenge now is commitment and during the negotiation both

side showed exactly that and they were very accommodating."


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