Solomons reconciliation celebrated as a foundation for peace
Organisers of a week of reconciliation ceremonies held in Solomon Islands say the programme was a first step towards national healing.
Organisers of a week of reconciliation ceremonies held in Solomon Islands say the programme is a first step towards national healing.
Coinciding with the celebration of the countries 38th Anniversary of Independence on Thursday, the program marked 13 years of peace in the country after a bloody ethnic conflict at turn of the century.
Spanning five years from 1998 to 2003 the period known locally as the 'ethnic tensions' almost destroyed the country.
More than 200 people were killed, many of whom are still unaccounted for and tens of thousands of lives were adversely affected.
The National Peace Advisor to the Ministry of National Unity Reconciliation and Peace said the $US750,000 program was an important first step to healing a damaged nation.
Father John Patteson Ngalihesi spoke with Koroi Hawkins who began by asking what the week of ceremonies hoped to achieve.
JOHN PATTESON NGALIHESI: Peace-building and reconciliation is a celebration it never concludes. It is part of human life and human existence and so the celebration will go on. But what we have achieved so far is we bring the warring parties together. We bring people from different provinces together. We gather the nation together to witness this great occasion of reconciliation. What we have achieved is this, the government of the day gave an apology and that sets the pace for the others to convey the apology. So there has been a lot of apologies conveyed to different people from different cross sections of the society, right across the country, from different provinces. For women, children, for youth, for the chiefs. And those apologies need to be accepted and so people respond. Very importantly the victims come forward to say we accept your apology for what you have done. And they reunited together and they celebrated their reconciliation they come together as one. So you have many people, have witnessed this and we have come to unite Solomon Islands as one people, one nation.
KOROI HAWKINS: Going forward now what is next? Are there ongoing programs to keep on with this work?
JPN: We have plans for the, this is the national healing and apology program so we celebrate it as a national reconciliation. And we have to roll this program down to the provinces. So there will be inter-reconciliation will be taking place from province, between province to province. Like Malaita and Guadalcanal they are talking about that. And that is a beautiful, a beautiful way to do it. The two premiers sit together and they discuss and now with this national one they said okay we will respond we will pick it up at that level in the provinces. And then from that inter we will have the intra community to community within the provinces. So it needs really to go down. There is also another way of, another area of peace-building is looking at Nauru's peace-building on the borders. We have the Bougainvilleans also here. They come as observers. And we look at how we can do peace building on the border between PNG and Solomon Islands a bit more better and in a way that can promote and harness Peace among our people.
KH: This particular program has cost six million Solomon dollars ($US750,000). Is that money well spent?
JPN: Yes, I think it is well spent. It is not that expensive compared to other programs the government and the people here (say) it is just awesome it is just marvellous it is great. You talk to people in the street they tell you exactly that this is satisfactory and this is healing and they think this is what we have been long waiting for. A lot of people think this is the day that this country has been waiting for and it is good coming from the people. While the money part is there, the value that has been celebrated and the lives that has been celebrated and the people that has come together is much more noble than the cost of that money.
KH: All this work is to make peace and to move on and all of this. Having said that we understand and we are aware that there are still issues. A lot of the underlying causes the factors, the aggravating factors of the tensions, squatter settlements moving into Guadalcanal provincial land unlicensed, unregulated, discrepancies in wealth or a widening poverty gap and also perceptions of corruption being high in the country. Are you sure that all of the work that you are doing and are continuing to do will not be unravelled by the government's and previous governments not dealing with some of the core issues that caused or factored into the ethnic crisis in the first place?
JPN: You have to begin somewhere all these are issues that need to be addressed but you have to begin somewhere . And if we continue to address these issues where there is no reconciliation you can't actually address these issues properly. And so the best thing to do is to address the issues of reconciliation and healing. When we have that, it creates, it is like a foundation in place so that we can be able to talk properly and to talk to each other properly about our demands, our issues, our problems. So we believe that laying the foundations of peace will help us to properly address the issues of our time. If you do not do this then you will have a lot of problem along the way. So this is the better way and the best way to begin the process of addressing the issues.
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