31 May 2002

No stolen property returned as Solomons amnesty expires

10:35 am on 31 May 2002

Hundreds of illegally held weapons remain in circulation in Solomon Islands as an amnesty for their return expires tonight.

But political and community leaders have welcomed the recent surrender of some of the illegally held weapons.

Police say their officers have returned nearly a hundred high powered weapons in this year's campaign and several more have been given to the international peace monitors along stolen explosives.

The latest amnesty deadline is the third since the Townsville Peace Agreement was signed in October 2000.

The amnesty is also for those who stole property but despite a government policy to try to restore law and order, the chairman of the peace monitoring council, Paul Tovua, says there has been no response in that regard.

"As yet I have not, to my knowledge, seen or been told that any stolen properties have been surrendered. No, we have not received any."

Meanwhile, people, including members of the law enforcement agencies, are reported to keep driving stolen vehicles with impunity.

A spokesman for the Australian company which owns the closed Gold Ridge mine, Lou Rozmand, says to date no property belonging to his company has been returned.

There were some 40 vehicles stolen, over a two year time frame, and certainly around the period of June 2000 we lost some 22 vehicles, as well as a lot of equipment that we had in stores, and as you would appreciate electric motors and the like across the mine site.

Lou Rozmand.

The government says those failing to comply with the amnesty offer will face the full force of the law.