Wednesday, 6 February 2008 5:54 PM

Return of Human Remains Wrong: Museum Director

The Director of the National Museum of Solomon Islands, Lawrence Foana'ota, says procedures taken to return human remains into the country, said to be of Solomon Islanders, from New Zealand was wrong.

Mr. Foana'ota said there are rules and regulations to follow when returning human remains into the country.

His comment was in reference to human remains that were returned from a museum in New Zealand to Solomon Islands towards the end of last year.

Mr. Foana'ota said that the process in which the remains were returned "were definitely not right according to the law."

"When it comes to human remains, it is very important that we must work according to certain rules and regulations," he told Solomon Times.

Mr. Foana'ota said that the bones was said to be taken in the late 1920's during the migration of the people of Solomon Islands.

He said that among the remains were pieces identified to be that of a woman from Malaita, which "culturally is taboo".

Mr. Foana'ota said that the case of returning the remains was an unethical way of dealing with the issue.

"There is a protocol in dealing with such issues, which is very sensitive especially for the relatives," he added.

He said that arrival of the remains should never have been published as was the case last year, "and it is not right."

Mr. Foana'ota told Solomon Times that a letter was received from the New Zealand museum, apologizing to the National Museum of Solomon Islands.

He said that some of the remains are said to be from the Vanikoro, "they will help to find out if the remains were descendents from their village".

Mr. Foana'ota said that some of the bones should not be returned because the national museum has to do the ground work.

"They should come through the Foreign Affairs and also through medical centers to clear any possible disease attached," he added.

In this case, "both the Foreign Affairs and the Medical were not aware of the arrival of human remains".

He told Solomon Times that the woman identified to be the leader of the Solomon Islands community in New Zealand, Doreen Kuper Prebble, made the assumption that the return of remains was good for Solomon Islands without making proper consultations.

Mr. Foana'ota said that had she let them know at the first place, there would not be any argument and they would also follow the right procedures of returning the remains.

The Museum Director stressed that any similar issue in the future should be done through the right process.

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