Prime Minister Dr Derek Sikua says the launch of the Solomon Islands Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) by His Grace Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa is the beginning of a journey towards a peaceful and prosperous Solomon Islands.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Tutu arrived in the Solomon Islands on Tuesday on an official state visit to launch the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which will help to bring peace to communities still divided by violence during five years of civil unrest.

The Commission is expected to hear stories of violence and abuse from thousands of Solomon Islanders during the violent period 1998-2003. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission will provide a forum for victims and perpetrators to speak about the causes and impacts of that violence.

The retired African archbishop, known as "South Africa's moral conscience," is deeply respected, both for his role in chairing his own country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission and for his consummate commitment to promoting human rights and opposing racism.

Dr Sikua said the TRC launch marks an important step in the history of the country, especially in efforts as a nation to deal with a difficult chapter in the country's history.

"We gathered here today to put a special meaning to the official launch of the Solomon Islands truth and reconciliation commission. The launching of this commission is a vital part of our efforts as we continue to work towards closure of a most challenging chapter in our history, when disputes led to conflict and conflict erupted into violence between communities," Prime Minister Sikua said.

"When that violence inflicted great suffering right throughout the nation, it signifies the need for us as a nation and people to step forward again with trust and confidence in each other, having closed one chapter in our history and opening another," he added.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is an independent body, comprising three national and two international commissioners.

The Prime Minister announced the names of the Commissioners last Friday. They are: Fr. Sam Ata of Solomon Islands (Chair); Ms. Sofia Macher of Peru (Deputy Chair); Mr. George Kejoa of Solomon Islands; Mrs. Carolyn Laore of Solomon Islands; and Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi of Fiji.

Dr Sikua said the presence of someone like Archbishop Tutu added more meaning and significance to the efforts of Solomon Islanders to foster lasting peace and unity for a stable and secure Solomon Islands.

Archbishop Tutu also addressed Members of Parliament at a special luncheon at the Mendana Hotel in Honiara today.

He will depart Solomon Islands on Friday.

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