The final day of Phase One of the Pre-Reconciliation ceremony got underway in Kokopo, with Representatives from the National Government, and Autonomous Bougainville Government witnessing proceedings.
It was the PNG Security Force Veterans, and Bougainville Veterans, who were at the center of proceedings today – both sides coming together to seek forgiveness for wrongs committed during the Bougainville Crisis.
Representatives from both sides setting the scene for reconciliation.
The Vunapope Catholic Mission Station was again full of emotion as PNG Security Force Veterans and Bougainville Veterans apologized for wrongs committed during the decade-long Bougainville Conflict.
Veterans from Bougainville, calling for understanding from their former enemies.
Ishmael Toroama a Bougainville Veteran saying that it would take time for the whole process to be accepted.
“I believe this is a new pathway that we all are attacking. We believe that no matter what we ask for it is only a step forward into peace by peaceful means and that is the settlement that our leaders have achieved.”
And similar sentiments expressed by another Bougainville veteran, Joe Pais “I want to say thank you for the training received by the defense force, the police and CIS also lost, and to them we have to apologize, the crisis brought us to that level – it was because of the government that we became enemies.”
Whilst the PNG side also seeking forgiveness for atrocities committed during the ten-year conflict with PNG Security Force Veteran Walter Enuma also speaking.
“We are Melanesian, the way forward for us is through the spirit of Melanesia, we will chart a way forward as brothers, as Papua New Guineans, as Bougainvillean’s, we will chart a way, that the suffering of our people, of our mothers and our children who have died and one generation of our children who have missed out completely in school that we will now put in all our effort under the grace of our great God that we will find the path that is habitable, that will be sustainable that we can co-exist as brothers and family.”
Former PNGDF Commander also sentimental “We’ve come, I’ve come to say sorry I left whatever opportunity I had to come and say sorry because then I can get on with my life. We are with you, good or bad, we are with you”
At the height of the conflict, Major General Jerry Singirok was in charge of the PNGDF – a position that he said was a difficult one, given the political, constitutional, and moral challenges.
The former PNGDF Commander apologizing for the wrongs committed under his tenure.
INSERT: Jerry Singirok – Former PNGDF Commander
Because I held the bible to defend my country this is the same bible that my colleagues sitting in front of me on my right, and even the policemen and CIS have taken an oath. It was not my choice to go to Bougainville. I was told to go to Bougainville I was only an instrument of a state institution
Today’s pre-reconciliation ceremony ending with a traditional breaking of the arrows to signal the end of the conflict, and paving way for a National Reconciliation to take place on the island of Bougainville in the months ahead.
By Meriba Tulo, EMTV News, Port Moresby