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Blood, horror haunt survivors

By Ednal Palmer HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, March 10, 2010) - Listening to their testimony was hard, but nine victims of the past ethnic conflict in the Solomon Islands front up the public to reveal their emotional stories of the past yesterday.

[PIR editor’s note: The island of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands was thrown into a period of bloodshed and lawlessness between 1998 and 2003 when militants from the neighboring island of Malaita warred with warlords in Guadalcanal over encroachment and cultural clashes. Peace was restored with the arrival of the Australian led multinational military force known as the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) in the summer of 2003. While the peacekeeping force has been greatly reduced, RAMSI remains in Honiara today. The so-called Truth and Reconciliation hearings which began yesterday are part of a healing process overseen by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of the Solomon Islands is mandated in 2008 to heal wounds and promote unity.]

The nine were the first to be called for the two-day Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s first day of public hearing at the FFA conference room.

Testimonies of torture, pain and heart-breaking endured by the victims during the ethnic unrest refilled tears in many watching eyes as they rekindle nasty experiences to the panel.

The first nine called were:

The TRC chairman Fr Sam Ata in opening the hearing said the testimony is part of the most significant activities of the work plan they have set to accomplish the mission they were assigned.

Fr Ata said the public hearing will help victims because they give voice to those for years had to endure in silence, numerous abuses and crimes impossible to describe.

"TRC wishes to end this silence and make the whole country to give recognition to their sufferings and feel the tragedy which has long been denied."

The TRC has developed a number of policies and rules which will guide the victims when they reveal their stories.

One such policy is that a victim will not name people but can name groups.

The Prime Minister Dr. Derick Sikua was present during the first session yesterday although the Governor General did not turn up.

The hearings will not be staged where people will discuss what they hear or for people to compare versions.

The TRC will not deliver any judgments or reach a verdict on the cases presented to the public hearings.

TRC said the hearings are moments to listen with respect and compassion.

"Above all, it will help to restore the dignity of the victims, to retrieve the memory of those who were killed, and to hear the voice of those who were humiliated and abused in countless ways."

The TRC is an independent body, comprising three national and two international commissioners.

They are: Sam Ata of Solomon Islands (Chair); Sofia Macher of Peru (Deputy Chair); George Kejoa of Solomon Islands; Carolyn Laore of Solomon Islands; and Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi of Fiji.

The work of the TRC commenced on 15 January 2010, following its launch last year by former Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

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.

The hearing will continue today with the last seven victims listed to appear before the two-day hearings.

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