Desmond Tutu launches commission to restore peace in Solomon Islands

28 Apr 2009

Archbishop Desmond Tutu greets Solomon Islands Prime Minister Dr. Derek Sikua
Photo: UNDP

HONIARA – Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu arrived here today on an official state visit to launch the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Solomon Islands, which will help to bring peace to communities still divided by violence during five years of civil unrest.

For the first time, thousands of Solomon Islanders will be able to speak publicly about the violence and abuse they experienced and witnessed from 1998-2003.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission will provide a forum for victims and perpetrators to speak about the causes and impacts of that violence.

The retired African archbishop, known as “South Africa’s moral conscience,” is deeply revered in this largely Anglican South Pacific country, both for his role in chairing his own country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and for his consummate commitment to promoting human rights and opposing racism.

“Archbishop Tutu is an advocate for human dignity whose tireless efforts have helped millions of people around the world,” said Prime Minister Dr. Derek Sikua.  “His presence here this week will inspire Solomon Islanders to help to heal old wounds caused by the violence and civil unrest experienced during the ‘tensions’.  It represents a turning point in our efforts to move away from bitterness and resentment, and to create a shared future as a unified nation,”  said the Prime Minister.

The Solomon Islands experienced social unrest and organised violent conflict between 1998 and July 2003. The signing of the Townsville Peace Agreement in 2000, and the arrival of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands in 2003 -- which is an international peacekeeping and development mission -- brought an end to active conflict and restored law and order.  However, outstanding grievances remain unresolved in a society which still places high value on traditional means of reconciliation over formal judicial proceedings.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is an independent body, comprising three national and two international commissioners.  The Prime Minister announced the names of the Commissioners last Friday.  They are:  Fr. Sam Ata of Solomon Islands (Chair); Ms. Sofia Macher of Peru (Deputy Chair);  Mr. George Kejoa of Solomon Islands; Mrs. Carolyn Laore of Solomon Islands; and Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi of Fiji.

“Reconciliation in Solomon Islands must be based on our traditional values and customs,” said Sam Iduri, Minister for National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace in Solomon Islands.  “The chosen commissioners bring a breadth of experience that ensures the Solomon Islands Commission will benefit from other international experiences, and also follow a process which is meaningful to Solomon Islanders.”

Financial and technical support for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been provided by a number of contributors, including the Governments of Solomon Islands, Australia and New Zealand; the European Commission; the International Centre for Transitional Justice; the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; and the United Nations Development Programme.

“Reconciliation is the number one priority of the government, as it affects the ability of thousands of Solomon Islanders to participate fully in social, cultural and economic life,” said Knut Ostby, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative designate for Solomon Islands.  “We are truly fortunate to have one of the elder statesmen of truth commissions and victims’ rights here to assist with the formal opening of the Solomon Islands Commission. UNDP is proud to support this initiative.”

Contact Information

Mrs. Joy Kere, Ministry of National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace, Solomon Islands by e-mail at pspeace@pmc.gov.sb or finioa@gmail.com; and by telephone at (+677) 28616 or 96150.

Mr. George Atkin, Press Secretary to the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands by e-mail at gatkin@pmc.gov.sb; and by telephone at (+677) 21863 or 94555.

Ms. Christina Carlson, UNDP Honiara, Solomon Islands by e-mail at christina.carlson@undp.org ; and by telephone at (+677) 22747 or 96353; or (+881) 641414524.

Ms. Cherie Hart, UNDP Regional Centre in Bangkok by e-mail at
Cherie.hart@undp.org; and by telephone at +66 8 1 918 1564

Ms. Julia Dean, UN Information Centre in Canberra by email at
jdean@un.org.au; and by telephone at +612 627 382 00