29 Nov 2002

Solomons police want help to rebuild houses torched on Weather Coast

11:15 am on 29 November 2002

Solomon Islands police have called for a civilian team to be sent to the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal to rebuild houses destroyed during the campaign to capture rebel leader Harold Keke.

The acting commissioner, John Homelo, says Biti village was burned to the ground last Friday after it was discovered the villagers had been harbouring Keke and his followers.

It followed the killing of a policeman and a civilian near the village, allegedly by Keke's people.

Mr Homelo says the torching was by people from an adjacent settlement who had been badly treated by Keke and his men.

Six people suspected of harbouring Keke are now in custody in Honiara.

There are unconfirmed reports that the group of prisoners has been beaten up by police in retaliation for the death of the officer.

But Mr Homelo rejects that.

He says the group was attacked but by the same people who burned down Biti village.

Mr Homelo says the police's ability to intervene when such retaliation occurs is limited, because they are few in number on the Weather Coast.