28 Oct 2003

RAMSI leader says there are still tensions on the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal

11:16 am on 28 October 2003

The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, RAMSI, has dismissed claims that displaced people who have begun returning to the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal are being harassed and assaulted.

Hundreds of villagers had fled to Titinge near Honiara before the arrest of warlord Harold Keke ten weeks ago.

A monitor with the National Peace Council says those that returned also met resistance from Keke's militia, the Guadalcanal Liberation Front.

But the head of RAMSI, Nick Warner, says the reports are exaggerated.

He says the Weather Coast is not perfectly benign yet, but as far as RAMSI is concerned it is a good, strong, safe environment.

"but there are still tensions and there are still animosities, both down on the Weather Coast and between some of the people in Titinge, the DP camp, and populations and individuals down on the Weather Coast. That's something we and they need to continue to work on."

Nick Warner, head of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands

The chairman of the National Peace Council in Solomon Islands, Paul Tovua, says recent events on the Weathercoast of Guadalcanal means the return of villagers will take time.

Mr Tovua says up to 40 people are planning to return to their villages on the Weather Coast, but it will take time and effort before the villagers can live together in peace again.

Because of the killing, because of murders and rape, extortion, compensation in the past, these things are not easy to forget quickly and in any case, there is still alot of mediation, conflict resolution and reconciliation.

Paul Tavua .