Tutu to start Solomons reconciliation commission

A Solomon Islands Truth and Reconciliation Commission to be launched by South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu next week will ease lingering ethnic tension over past unrest, officials said on Wednesday.

The Nobel Peace laureate will on Wednesday start the commission, which will investigate the causes of unrest between 1997 and 2003 in which more than 100 people were killed.

An estimated 20 000 people were displaced amid tensions on the island of Guadalcanal between indigenous militants and rivals originally from the neighbouring island of Malaita.

Violence on the islands ended in 2003 with the arrival of the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (Ramsi).

The Solomon Islands government said on Wednesday it believes the commission will be an important way of promoting reconciliation and healing the wounds of the ethnic conflict.

“Desmond Tutu’s participation will be inspirational and will give our truth and reconciliation commission integrity,” said Joy Kere, the head of the Ministry of Peace and Reconciliation.

South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which the 77-year-old Tutu headed, investigated violence during the apartheid era and is serving as a model for the Solomon Islands.

Ramsi has restored law and order and many former militants have been jailed but the government has been pressured to do more uncover the causes of the violence.

Although former prime minister Sir Allan Kemekeza was jailed for ordering an attack on a law firm in 2002, many Solomon Islanders believe those responsible for orchestrating the unrest are still to be caught.

“The people of Solomon Islands need a process to find out the underlying causes of the ethnic tension—the commission will find the truth and made recommendations to government,” said the commission’s deputy secretary David Tuhanuku.

Three locals will sit on the commission along with two international nominations.

It will run for a year with a provision to extend it for another year if necessary.

Some Solomon Islanders have said people’s emotions were still too raw from the conflict but the head of the Ministry of Peace and Reconciliation disagreed, saying much had been done since the arrival of Ramsi.

“A lot of reconciliation work has been done by churches and local government, the timing is right now,” Kere said. - AFP

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