Time to address crisis issues

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The National, Tuesday July 19th, 2016

VICTIMS of human rights abuses have the legal right to seek justice and must be helped in order to avoid further trauma from resurfacing  which could lead to unrest and violence.
According to a report by Catherine Wilson of The Saturday paper (Australia), the road to referendum will not be easy as Bougainvilleans are divided over the issue. They feel that many cases of abuse committed during the crisis, were yet to be addressed before any peace and reconciliation process can be done to pave way for the referendum.
Helen Hakena, who runs the Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency for peace and development, was one of the many women who persuaded combatants to lay down their arms before the 1998 ceasefire, said there were victims who knew perpetrators in their communities who were walking freely.
“It is really an injustice when the perpetrators are moving on with life as though nothing had happened but I (victim) cannot move on,” Hakena said.
She said there were elderly people who were passing on their negative experiences to their sons (who did not experience the Bougainville Crisis) to continue to hate the perpetrators’ families.
Hakena said she was anticipating consequences if these unsettled issues of the crisis were not settled sooner because most children still did not understand why they hated these people (perpetrators and their families).
“How can we move towards the future when these issues of the past are not being addressed? We are paying taxes and in return we have nothing. The content of the peace agreement is not being addressed,” said Peter from Keriaka, West Coast Bougainville.
According to Wilson’s report, Autonomous Bougainville Government acting director of peace, Stephanie Elizah acknowledged that past discussions regarding transitional justice had never been acted on as there were sensitivity surrounding the topic regarding former combatants, for whom the partial amnesty period from 1988 to 1999 were contentious.
According to the report, in 2014 the ABG launched a policy to provide assistance to families still searching for their loved ones who disappeared during the conflict, however it does not support justice or compensation measures.
Wilson said Elizah admitted that the ABG’s current approach for peace and reconciliation had fallen short of addressing deep grievances with those who were involved in some form of injustice.
Rosemary Moses from the Bougainville Women’s Forum in Arawa said people had been accused of killing others during the crisis and this had carried on in the form of recent killings.
She believed that the customary truth telling and reconciliation process, practised following clan wars for generations, should be rolled out to address the crisis-related issues.
A Catholic Bishop in Bougainville, Bernard Unabali said both customary and modern-truth telling approaches may be needed but modern-truth telling must come first.
He said time was needed to see if it (truth-telling) has made any difference to lasting peace, however, those that had caused mass abuses during the crisis should still face the courts.