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MPs with guns?

Ex-combatants demand MPs return their guns or there will be no disarmament


THE Government is planning a second disarmament of ex-combatants for May this year, a month before the final RAMSI contingent leaves the country.

But the plan may have hit a snag, according to informed sources, citing a demand by ex-militants, particularly from Malaita that MPs including some Government ministers surrender their weapons first.

The sources said the demand was conveyed in a meeting chaired by the deputy secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, Derek Futaiasi last month. Mr Futaiasi could not be reached for comment last night.

“The ex-combatants named Ministers and MPs that are still in possession of weapons, including some high-powered rifles. These MPs must surrender their weapons first before ex-combatants hand in theirs,” the meeting, held at the Prime Minister’s Office, was reportedly told.

Ex-combatants also rejected a Government request that they move around Malaita to collect the guns.

“That is not our duty – it is police duty to collect illegal firearms,” the ex-combatants reportedly told the meeting.

The ex-combatants are however willing to do the “awareness” for the disarmament ceremony.

What was agreed was that ex-combatants would travel to their respective constituencies to tell ex-combatants in the villages that they must surrender their weapons or they will be arrested.

Informed sources said the government had agreed to engage ex-combatants to participate in the awareness.

“We were initially told to wait until after the Budget was passed. Well, the budget was passed in December but three months on and we are still waiting for payment of our travel allowances,” one of them said last night.

Meanwhile sources said planning for the second disarmament is well advanced, although the government is still trying to find money to buy back guns from ex-combatants.

One senior official said the idea to buy back illegal firearms does not make sense.

“No donor in his right mind is going to put money in the disarmament. After all, these people are holding on to guns illegally. So why should taxpayers spend money on it,” the official said.

The official said it seems some individuals in the Ministry of Peace and Reconciliation are using ex-combatants in an exercise which could prove a headache for the Government.

“The problem is that the Prime Minister supports the initiative. But the government does not have the money to do this,” the official said.

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