Tuesday, 28 April 2009 9:53 AM

Kwaio Compensation

Dear Editor,

I would like to share a different perspective on the issue above as it has been a common theme on this subject that the demand for compensation was a wrong step or decision by the people of kwaio, however, I tend to disagree.

On the 2nd September 2001, there was a conference in Durban, South Africa in which leaders of countries who have been wronged in the past by their former colonial rulers called for these colonial powers to "acknowledge" their wrongs. The recent action by the people of kwaio, in my view, has the same underlying purpose as those of the countries in the conference.

The most important fact we should all remember and consider is that the people of kwaio suffered a horrible wrong, even If it is 50 or 60 years ago, it is a crime none of the other ethnic groups in the Solomons have ever suffered. Therefore I don't think all of us will fully understand the emotions behind this step. The massacre which these people have endured and which I believe will remain with them for a longtime to come cannot be simply tossed aside or put behind. Their demand for compensation can be seen as their way of demanding acknowledgment for a crime they suffered and as the leaders of more than 20 countries did in Durban, it is most likely their way of moving forward. We can't just force them to put aside their pain and expect them to progress with the rest of the country like nothing ever happened. Hence, it is inexcusable to see that some people are judging the actions of some kwaio leaders and accusing them of being self centered or money hungry, this is disrespectful. Who are we to judge these people? These are a group of people whose way of life and culture, I can imagine, is intertwined with their past and their sufferings. Probably their path forward is through the acknowledgement of their history and the compensation to the wrongs they have suffered. I can only speculate on the links between their recent history with expatriates and the killings in 1927 but it will be a different argument and one which I don't think is apt for the moment.

The issue of demanding from the national government and not the British gov't is perhaps the most critical aspect and point of this topic as seen by other contributors. The reason I think why this compensation demand was taken to the national government is perhaps due to the fact that the gov't is where all major concerns are raised. Furthermore, according to my little understanding of international law; one way or another a colonial power has no influence or say in a former colony after independence and whatever was done prior to independence is up to the independent country to decide on their course of action, however it has do it through diplomacy. This is where the gov't comes in, for this move by the people of kwaio can be seen as a step to which our gov't can take up their concerns to the British and seek acknowledgement on their behalf. Some have asked though, why now? The simple fact is, they could not do it then because of fear and also they could not do it right after our nation's independence because of the difficulty our country was facing at that time in terms of finding our own identity. By that I mean, after independence or even 20 years after independence, Solomon Islands on behalf of the kwaio people, was not ready to demand such a thing which will tarnish the image of one of the greatest powers on the planet. However, this may still not be the right time to seek compensation considering the state of our country but if these people's plight is kept hidden for the next 20 years, a very significant piece of our history as a country might be forgotten. I bet that before the demand was voiced publicly, not a lot of people in our country knew about these killings. Personally I think it is a part of our history that we all ought to recognize for it portrays a picture of our colonial rulers that we need to see, a relation which was not all pleasant and agreeable.

Now, it is an obvious fact that demanding compensation is a part of the culture of some parts of the Solomons to resolve any dispute and even though I agree that it is a culture that is sometimes abused, I don't believe it is the case here. Besides, we don't even know how much the people of kwaio are demanding but one thing I do know and believe is important is the fact that, an acknowledgement is due to this piece of history. Therefore If getting compensation or acknowledgement is their way of moving on in life then I think we should support the people of Kwaio get a piece of their history acknowledged so they could create a new and fresh history for themselves.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of Junior Roni and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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