Statement by the Minister for National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace Hon. Samuel Iduri on The Bona Fide Demands of Guadalcanal, 5 February 2007

 

 Hon IDURI:  Thank you, Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister and Ministers, Opposition and Members of Parliament.

            Mr Speaker, I respectfully rise to make this statement, which appears under Order Paper No.4(1) in my name, on the ‘Bona Fide Demands of Guadalcanal’.  Mr Speaker, may I add, that these outstanding issues are related to the recommendations of the Solomon Islands Government (SIG) and the Guadalcanal Province Government (GPG) Task Force Report on Reconciliation and Rehabilitation (SIG/GPG Report 2006).  Thus I will be referring to both issues in view of my Ministry’s policies and programs. 

Mr Speaker, at the outset the government considers matters of outstanding issues and reconciliation as very critical in the advancement and consolidation of the peace process.  These relate directly to some of the underlying causes and also the effects and impacts of the ethnic violence.  The Government therefore, is committed to addressing these to ensure healing, forgiveness and true reconciliation take place that would lead to sustainable peace.

Mr Speaker, the “Guadalcanal Bona Fide Demands” was initially made in 1999 to the national government.  As this Honorable House is aware, other technical ministries are directly responsible for the implementation of the various sections of the Bona Fide Demands.  My Ministry’s role is to monitor, assess and advise on the implications of the issues on peace, stability and national unity.  Thus it plays an advisory and coordinating role to government ministries for that matter to ensure that critical national issues are constantly addressed.

Mr Speaker, key implementing ministries in this regard are the Ministries of Lands, Provincial Government, Home Affairs, Finance, Education, Justice and Legal Affairs, National Planning and Aid Coordination, Mines and Energy and the Honiara City Council; just to mention the areas that are covered in the Bona Fide Demands.

Mr Speaker, the Bona Fide Demands definitely are not shelved away as suggested in recent media statements.  They are not forgotten either by all parties.   The demands, if we all recall are long term, if not are already part of ongoing government services.  Progress has been made in certain areas; others have been slow; while certain areas are legally complicated and would take a lot of time and resources.

 Mr Speaker, I must reiterate here, that the events of our recent ethnic violence has definitely affected the progress and very importantly in turn had created additional demands and claims and also priorities, which my Ministry has been able to establish over the past two years through its intra-provincial and community reconciliation activities.

Mr Speaker, eight years on since the Bona Fide Demands were made, the government through my Ministry is committed to revisit these reports in coordination with respective ministries to carry out a full up-date assessment on the status of the Guadalcanal Bona Fide Demands.  The Ministry realizes that the Bona Fide Demands historically is a re-emerging issue that will continue to have bearing on peace and stability of this nation.

The assessment is to update our records, establish a common understanding, pave a way forward through dialogue and in turn inform our people of the status of the “Bona Fide Demands”.  Sir, ensuring that updated and accurate feedback reaches our people particularly at the community level is important.

Mr Speaker, this is a task my Ministry is coordinating with other relevant Ministries and the outcome will also contribute towards a Background Paper, the terms of reference of a high level government committee that will conduct assessment into the SIG/GPG Reconciliation and Rehabilitation Report.

Sir, to provide an overview of the work of the Ministry, let me inform you that the Ministry was only established in 2002 in urgent response to the immediate impact of the violence and the subsequent lawlessness.  The Government saw the need for the department to focus and coordinate government strategies in addressing the immediate post-conflict situation.

Mr Speaker, since then its roles and functions has evolved over the past four years.  From 2002-2003 the major focus was on compensation.  From 2004-2005 it focused on            reconciliation with stronger emphasis on rehabilitation (re-integration) programs.  From 2005-2006 while National and Inter-provincial Reconciliation remained the main focus the strategies were on national dialogue through national summits.

These summits had provided the forum for the first time after the conflict for national, provincial and community leaders to talk through provincial and national issues in relating back to the original Bona Fide Demands, as in the case of the Guadalcanal Province, and also to newer issues as a result of the ethnic conflict. 

Sir, the summit reports have been endorsed by Cabinet and are useful reference materials which is informing my Ministry’s work program and forming the basis for dialogue.

Mr Speaker, meaningful reconciliation is a process that cannot be imposed.  It takes a lot of time, resources and skills.  Based on the level of ground work that have already been gained through dialogue with the provinces, the government through my Ministry is committed to further advance and consolidate the ongoing reconciliation processes at both the provincial and national levels. 

Having said this, intra-community reconciliations are just as equally important through which the Ministry is promoting community initiatives.  As an example, recently the Ministry took part in the South Guadalcanal Constituency Inter-ward meetings and was pleased with the approach and the community initiatives and financing which reflected the ownership of the process.  This is a model that other national leaders could also consider to adopt for their respective constituencies.

Mr Speaker,   the national goal however, is for a National Reconciliation between SIG/GPG/MPG and an Inter-provincial Reconciliation between the two provinces directly involved.  The detailed timeframe and work program will be mapped out and will be released shortly.

Mr Speaker, in relation to the issue of the Bona Fide Demands of Guadalcanal and Reconciliation, it is important to note the outcome of the Balasuna Guadalcanal Leaders Summit of 2005 in a proposal which was submitted to government.  The prime focus was for peace reconciliation between SIG and GPG to pave the way for further negotiations between both parties, of which the Bona Fide Demands are just one of the issues. 

In accepting the proposal for peace reconciliation, a SIG/GPG Taskforce was further appointed and mandated to recommend the form, substance, date and venue for which the proposed peace reconciliation would take place in conformity with Guadalcanal custom.  The taskforce was also to recommend a framework for achieving meaningful peace reconciliation on Guadalcanal.

Mr Speaker, the Report of this Task Force on the Solomon Islands Government/Guadalcanal Province Government Task Force Report on Reconciliation and Rehabilitation (2006) was received and the content noted by the Grand Coalition Government with the understanding that it is a report that reflects the feelings and aspirations of the people of the Province on reconciliation and rehabilitation.

Mr Speaker, in the light of Cabinet directives of September 2006, my Ministry is establishing a high level government Committee to assess the recommendations of the report with the view of formulating a government position paper.  While this is normal government procedure to ensure the involvement of all responsible ministries, in addition to the implication of the recommendations are such that would require decisions beyond my Ministry’s level.  Obviously, there might be the need to separate the two issues of reconciliation and rehabilitation because of financial implications. 

Sir, the government committee will be broad based comprising of key ministries and the committee’s assessment and recommendation will assist the Ministry in planning the way forward.

Mr Speaker, it is important to note that the Solomon Islands Government position paper will form the strategies and basis for consultation and negotiation during a planned SIG/ Guadalcanal Province Government Talks.  In this regard, currently the Background Paper and Status Paper is being prepared by my Ministry in conjunction with other responsible Ministries.  The appointment of the Government Committee will be concluded by the end of February 2007 and the Committee should start its deliberations by the second week of March 2007.

Mr Speaker, thereafter, the time frames and dates for the SIG/GPG Talks on the Peace Reconciliation will be set in close consultation with the Guadalcanal Province.  Indicative dates are however set for August 2007.  The dates and programs will be discussed with newly elected provincial government.

In concluding, Mr Speaker, in summary:

 

1.                   “The Bona Fide Demands of our people from Guadalcanal are an ongoing priority on our Government’s agenda.

2.                   The Peace Reconciliation first; in the manner proposed under the SIG/GPG Reconciliation and Rehabilitation Report is what my Ministry is currently addressing.  Once an amicable understanding is reached between both parties, the next step would be the SIG/GPG Peace Reconciliation Ceremony also in a manner agreed to by all parties.

3.                   Sir, my Ministry promotes continued dialogue and consultation with understanding as the key strategy.

 

Sir, finally, reconciliation might be a long process; and it is not a one off process either.  It may take time before parties can agree to move forward and inevitably a lot of resources are involved and required.  However, Mr Speaker, rebuilding of shattered human relationships, the hurts and pains of our people is just as equally important as rebuilding of our economy, if we are to ensure sustainable peace and national unity. 

Although reconciliation often connotes payment of compensation, and is unattractive to many donor partners, with that understanding; the government is committed to its national reconciliation programs.

Mr Speaker, with those remarks, thank you for this opportunity, and I resume my seat.