Dear Editor

Last week the Prime Minister, Hon Manasseh Sogavare, launched the Information Technology Society of Solomon Islands (ITSSI) when he said the establishment of ITSSI provided an excellent opportunity for the Solomon Islands Government to obtain its professional views on the draft National Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Policy.

Prime Minister Sogavare, added during the official launch ceremony, “national security, social order and effective governance would be amongst many of the agendas topping the government’s list of issues that the country must be comfortable about in the proposed National ICT policy."

“Vital national security information falling in the hands of wrong people can be very damaging to the country and worries about the possibility of this happening is further compounded by the knowledge that even advanced societies in the world have experienced information hacking.”

The PM was absolutely correct, in my view, to raise such issues and because in the digital age and the ever increasing use (and misuse of social media) it is easier than ever to publish false information, which is quickly, shared and taken to be true.

A case in point being a recent reported twitter post in the name of a notorious jailed militant.

Father John Patteson Ngalihesi, chief advisor to the Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, was quick to discount the story – and rightly so.

Journalists, especially off-shore, are fond of writing stories which are not always factual and truthful and the Solomon Islands Government in the lead-up to RAMSI’s exit next June must be watchful of any moves to twist the news and impede the process of reconciliation and nation building.

I have, in the past been accused of ‘lashing out’ at journalists who deliberately and falsely filed false stories at the onset of the so-called ‘ethnic tension’ in 1998-1999.

I did so because, while believing in a free press, journalist must be guided by a Code of Ethics which is to ensure their main goal is to ensure the right of citizens to truthful and important information, which allows them to form adequate impression about social processes, their essence and importance, about the situation in the modern world.

The journalist bears responsibility before the society in general, before the law and before their professional association.

The social responsibility of the journalist requires that he/she acts in accordance with personal ethical standards.

The period of civil strife in the Solomon Islands ended effectively in 2003 and nobody wants a return to the tragedy that occurred in the 5 years that preceded RAMSI’s intervention and reconciliation is the only and just way forward.

Reconciliation is deeply entrenched in local culture and also part of the civil society laws based on Christian principles. Reconciliation looks to the future and enables communities to settle back in a spirit of acceptance, tolerance and mutual respect.

Many of today’s youth were born after the ethnic conflict and surely we owe it to our children to grow up in a society without hatred or contempt, but in a society in which all people are recognized as citizens of the Solomon Islands with equal rights and obligations to the State and to one another.

Yes, I know, people remain hurting and seek closure to those terrible years in the past but we must move on and be ever mindful of the futility of war and conflict which causes so much unjustified pain and suffering.

Let those now working working together to persuade those still filled with a degree of resentment to think anew about conflict and to meet with one another, initially to end the hostile thoughts tearing families and societies apart, and then to work together to establish a loving acceptance of each other’s right to live in peace.

Thankfully, humanity seems to be getting the message of the futility of war and I cite two international attempts at reconciliation and peace efforts which could serve as a valuable lesson to the Solomon Islands.

This last week, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) finally reached a peace deal after four years of negotiation.

The historic agreement means that the 52-year-old conflict that killed over 220,000 and displaced more than 5 million is finally over, Reuters reported. FARC fighters will disarm and reintegrate to civilian life.

Also on the international stage this week, The Philippines government and Maoist-led rebels agreed indefinite ceasefires on Friday as part of an accord to accelerate efforts to end a conflict that has lasted almost five decades and killed at least 40,000 people.

Both sides, at a signing ceremony in a hotel on the outskirts of Oslo, hailed the ceasefire deal and measures to step up negotiations as a breakthrough after 30 years of fitful peace talks.

To conclude this piece, as Father John Patteson Ngalihesi said last week, when responding to ill-informed rumours based on a foreign based news programme, ‘We have our own way of doing things in the Solomon Islands.” (Referring to reconciliation).

I believe it is now time for all to accept the past conflict in the Solomon Islands was wrong and nothing can alter the fact it occurred, but the time has come to bring just political solutions to the lingering concerns and to put aside the pent up rage and truly reconcile the nation for the betterment of all, but importantly for our children and their children’s future.

I live to see such hopes fully realized in my lifetime.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short