23 Aug 2002

Official statement awaited on rebel claim to have killed a Solomon Islands Minister

10:26 am on 23 August 2002

The Solomon Islands Prime Minister's Office is expected to issue a statement today on a claim by rebels that they have killed a Government Minister.

Harold Keke, who leads the Guadalcanal Liberation Front on the remote Weathercoast, made the claim in a call relayed to the local broadcaster, the SIBC.

The Minister has not been heard from for several days, but so far police and the government say they have been waiting for independent confirmation of the claim.

Mr Keke told Walter Nalangu, the news director of the SIBC, that the Minister was killed on Tuesday because he had not been honest in his dealings with his constituents. .

"He said he has not been honest to his voters, he cited some documents found in his suitcase alleging that he probably had misused some of the money that could have been used for development in that constituency and he ... in Harold's own words, he used it for his own wallet."

Walter Nalangu.

Police, who are barred from the rebel stronghold, say they are waiting for an independent confirmation of the claimed assassination.

Three months ago, ten people, thought to be bounty hunters hoping to catch the rebel leader, disappeared on the Weathercoast.

Harold Keke said he had massacred them, and after many weeks police accepted that claim.

A correspondent in Honiara quotes a reliable source in the Prime Minister's Office as saying the cabinet was pre-occupied yesterday discussing a tribute and state funeral for the ministerwith yrsays the ps