The Solomon Islands Government and the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) yesterday joined together to take part in a Titi Ulu or traditional reconciliation ceremony with the family and village of the late Harry Lolonga.Mr Lolonga died on 12 August last year when a joint police and military patrol came under sustained attack by a large crowd of rock-throwing villagers on the outskirts of Honiara and in response Tongan soldiers serving with RAMSI discharged several shots.
More than 500 people gathered in Mr Lolonga's home village of Peochekuri on the Weathercoast of Guadalcanal to witness today's ceremony during which the Solomon Islands Government presented the family and tribe with SBD$50,000 in cash and SBD$50,000 worth of traditional wealth or chupu in the form of pigs, root crops, betel nut and shell money.
Solomon Islands Permanent Secretary responsible for RAMSI, Paul Tovua, said that the Titi Ulu was a sign that all parties involved wanted to lay the matter to rest.
"Thank you for agreeing to restore the broken trust between this community and the Solomon Islands Government and RAMSI."
Mr Tovua said he wanted to sincerely thank RAMSI for respecting Solomon Islands custom.
Special Coordinator, Graeme Wilson, who pledged last year to do everything within his means to bring about resolution following Mr Lolonga's death, today committed RAMSI to providing his father, Japhet Panete, with $50,000 worth of building materials for a house and pledged a further $50,000 in funds for the education of the late Mr Lolonga's six children who are still of schooling age.
Mr Wilson, who was accompanied by RAMSI's senior police, military and civilian officials, told the people of Peochekuri that he was very thankful to their forefathers for their wisdom in devising a way, in the form of the Titi Ulu Ceremony, whereby everyone could come together and resolve their differences in a dignified and solemn manner.
"The journey leading up to this ceremony has not been easy...I wish to acknowledge the contribution of the chiefs, leaders and the youths for keeping and maintaining peace and security during this difficult and trying time."
On behalf of Honiara's Tongan community, Mr Tovua also presented a contribution in the form of building materials to Mr Panete.
Deputy Commissioner for the Royal Solomon Islands Police, Eddie Sikua, said the reconciliation not only opened the way for the RSIPF's re-engagement with the community but it also provided a model for other reconciliations the RSIPF would like to carry out with different communities.
He said today's ceremony complemented the work of the police who had completed the investigation into the incident and had now handed their report to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The eldest sister of Mr Lolonga, Ellen Leni, said her heart was now at peace.
"After my brother's death, I really felt the burden on my shoulders of caring for my father and for caring for my late brother's children, now the Government and RAMSI have lifted that burden from my shoulders and it is being shared by us all."
Two large stacks of chupu including several pigs were presented by the family and the community to the Government and to RAMSI to signify their acceptance.