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$60M for ex-militants

Is the government locked in a $60 million rehabilitation deal with ex-militants?


THE Government may have backed itself into a corner in a $60 million rehabilitation settlement deal with ex-militants, it has emerged.

This has emerged in the wake of internal moves reportedly engineered to oust Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare for “his poor and weak leadership” before the country was brought to its knees.

The deal with ex-militants was allegedly put together by Father Patterson Ngalihesi in consultation with a senior official in the Prime Minister’s political Office, sources told Island Sun yesterday.

Fr Ngalihesi was engaged by the Prime Minister’s Office as a consultant to hammer out a rehabilitation package for ex-militants. Until his removal several weeks ago, he was attached to the Ministry of Peace and Reconciliation.

His sacking was allegedly for committing the government to the $60 million budget he had prepared to fund ex-militants’ rehabilitation work.

“Fr Ngalihesi had gone as far as telling ex-militants to open bank accounts in preparation for their payments. This was even before Caucus and Cabinet were given the opportunity to peruse the proposed budget,” sources said.

That budget had left the government between a rock and a hard place, the sources said. In the end, no one seems to know how much was approved from the initial budget.

“It is not known what was accepted as the final figure but the original budget Fr Ngalihesi had submitted to the government was $60 million.

“Whatever was approved, it seems there is no way the DCC Government would get out of it. It has locked itself in the deal through Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s close association with ex-militants,” the sources said.

They said ex-militants were aware of the approved budget for their rehabilitation.

Prime Minister Sogavare last Sunday left for New York where he was due to discuss what he described as “peace building initiatives” with the United Nation’s Peacebuilding Commission today (Wednesday).

“He will present the case of Solomon Islands as a post conflict country, the process of peace building the country is pursuing, the challenges ahead and why the United “Nations should partner the Solomon Islands Government in the pursuit of these peace building initiatives,” a statement announcing the New York trip said.

Three days earlier, about 90 ex-militants were sent to Malaita to collect guns believed to be still out in the communities under the government’s gun amnesty, which closes on June 9.

The ex-militants were reportedly paid $270,000 or $3,000 each for their week-long engagement.

The engagement of ex-militants in the exercise is being seen as a deliberate move by the government to sideline police officers from doing their work.

“Unfortunately, police simply do not have any choice but to do what the government of the day has asked of it,” one source said.

Fr. Ngalihesi could not be reached for comments yesterday.