29 Apr 2013

Solomons Truth and Reconciliation report released despite govt stalling

5:42 pm on 29 April 2013

The final editor of a Solomon Islands report on ethnic tensions that prompted international military intervention is releasing digital copies of the document and in the process of having it posted on a website.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report is the product of extensive consultations with those on all sides of the conflict and contains recommendations on how Solomon Islands can heal from the trauma of what happened between the late 1990s and 2003.

The report was presented to the prime minister Gordon Darcy Lilo well over a year ago and widely expected to be made public within a few months.

Dr Terry Brown, a former bishop of the Anglican Church of Melanesia, told Annell Husband that when Mr Lilo announced recently that the document would not be out until later this year, he ran out of patience.

"Having had such a long relationship with the Solomon Islands and knowing the situation and having in a sense been a part of it, I decided it's time to just let the report hit the general public."

AH: And in doing so, you're not actually doing anything illegal, are you?

Well, possibly. I did sign a contract as an editor and the report isn't my property to release. It's within the prime minister's jurisdiction to release it, so who knows? It would take a lawyer to say. But I think that you possibly could say that I've released a confidential document that shouldn't have been released. So there is a legal question there, I admit.

AH: Have you been under pressure from people who want the report released to do so?

Well, I think the pressure has been my own conscience more than anything else, because I've been writing letters to the editor and been part of Facebook forums and pushing for the release of the document myself. I've been one of the main ones to push for its release. Some people have approached me knowing that I had a copy of the document, would I release it? So there's been a certain amount of people asking for a copy of the document and that kind of thing. A lot of researchers would have liked a copy of it, so I finally decided, better than WikiLeaks or letting copies get out to a few favourite friends or what-not, I would just take the bull by the horns and release it publicly and take credit for releasing it. I'm not planning to go back to the Solomons in too long of a time and I think that it's not likely that anything would come to me because of that.

AH: One of the reasons that the prime minister has given for not releasing the report is because of what it might create, the sort of trouble that it might stir up, but obviously you don't agree with that.

Well, I think that Solomon Island people are mature enough and enough time has passed that they should be able to deal with the things that happen in the report. It's been very interesting that quite a lot of the pressure for the release of the report has been from ex-militants who have moved on. They realise that they've made a mistake, they're willing to face what they did, they're willing to let people know, their families know, that kind of thing. And I just don't think it's an issue. One of the things in the report lists the names of the roughly 200 people that were killed during the ethnic tension period and the circumstances under which they died. And the second volume of the report has different kinds of human rights abuses that took place. Each chapter has a different human rights abuse. They interviewed 4,000 people. And here's 4,000 people involved in detention whose voices are being stilled because the prime minister just sits on the report because he finds it politically difficult. Myself, I believe the Solomons is a mature enough place and there are enough bright and committed people that they'll be able to handle the report.

Dr Terry Brown, speaking to Annell Husband.