Top leaders condemn govt’s $3m payout to ex-militants
THREE top leaders who helped bring an end to the ethnic tensions more than a decade ago have condemned the Sogavare Government’s controversial $3 million payout to ex-MEF militants.
Former Prime Minister Sir Alan Kemakeza and the chair and deputy chair of the Solomon Islands Intervention Taskforce, Sir Paul Tovua and Joses Tuhanuku described the Christmas Eve payout as “irresponsible and potentially destablising”.
“Such a payout flies in the face of the decision of Solomon Islanders to move forward and put this dark period in the nation’s history behind us,” the three leaders said in a strongly worded statement issued yesterday.
“Solomon Islanders do not want to go back to the bad old days of the rule of the gun,” Sir Allan, who in 2003, asked Australia to intervene in the nation’s crisis, an action which led to the deployment of RAMSI and ultimately the surrender of more than 4000 weapons.
“Whether militants or victims of the ethnic tensions as a nation we have collectively moved forward,” Sir Allan pointed out.
“Why the Prime Minister would decide to open old wounds and stir up tensions is only something he can answer,” he added.
The three leaders condemned the controversial $3 million Christmas Eve payout to former militants as both “illegal and an irresponsible use of taxpayers’ funds”.
“It was completely wrong to suggest that the Townsville Peace Agreement (TPA) signed in October 2000 provided for unqualified payments to anyone,” they said.
Sir Paul, who as co-chair of the National Peace Council was responsible for overseeing the implementation of the TPA, said it only provided for payments as part of a rehabilitation process.
“The conditions and deadlines for rehabilitation of militants under the TPA were very specific and clearly set out,” he said.
“The only way any one from any side could qualify for rehabilitation under the TPA was for them to disarm and hand in all their weapons and ammunition,” Sir Paul added.
The three leaders said Prime Minister Sogavare must be held personally responsible for the cost of such an exercise.
Mr Tuhanuku called on the Prime Minister to personally reimburse Treasury the $3 million he had decided to dish out to his cronies.
“The Prime Minister must be held accountable for his actions both financially and morally which are putting the peace of this nation at risk,” Mr Tuhanuku said.
The Government earlier said the $3 million pay-out to the ex-MEF was part of a rehabilitation package it is working on to pay to militants of both sides of the conflict.
Earlier reports suggest the exercise is likely to cost up to $300 million.
The majority of Solomon Islanders condemned the decision, describing it as unfair and an injustice to the victims of the tension.
By LESLEY SANGA