The people of New Ireland and Bougainville have had a long standing relationship; one that was sealed by way of a peace ceremony eight years ago following the Bougainville conflict.
The conflict had a huge impact on the two neighboring island provinces partly because current New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan was accused of hiring mercenaries to end the Bougainville war.
Peace was restored years after the war and the relationship continues to prosper today.
Recently delegates led by South Bougainville member, Timothy Masiu and former B.R.A commander Sam Kauona renewed this peace gesture in New Ireland Province.
Masiu and his entourage were greeted at the airport by Ben Micah who set aside his role as Kavieng’s MP for Head Chief representing his people accompanied locally revered chiefs known as ‘maimais’.
The delegates were given leaves known as ‘dalman’ to New Irelanders, symbolic of peace and unity.
Also the spear is symbolic of leadership and decrees respect for whoever it is given to in the New Ireland culture.
It was handed to Kauona- who to New Irelanders was an icon for his role in the Bougainville crisis; and until Tuesday the 14th of November was a voice only ever heard over the radio.
Early the next morning, the Bouganville delegates met with New Ireland leaders at the Catholic Diocese grounds. Here almost a decade ago, a coconut tree was planted to seal a settlement of peace between the leaders of both provinces.
“Our leadership back then, mended prehistoric links between our people” said Sam Kauona
Josephine Kauona, Sam’s wife represented the women of Bougainville, who traditionally held the final say in everything. They along with children suffered the crisis most.
“I was living in the bushes for 10 years, I lost houses, I lost everything, but coming here and seeing what our leaders did for us, I am happy”.
Masiu acknowledged the great leaders for setting the platform for the peace process to move forward.
“Joseph Kabiu’s legacy will live on, we (Bougainville people) will not forget that, Sir Julius’ legacy will live on, they were the leaders who initiated the peace process.”
But among the leaders, and only a boy at the time, Byron was privelleged to have witnessed the initial ceremony.
“They set aside their differences, shared betel nut and spat the ground in which the tree was planted, and I was privileged to have witnessed that great day.”