It was an emotional scene when the Bougainville Veterans came face-to-face with the PNG Security Forces in the symbolic national pre-reconciliation today at Kokopo.
Memories of the conflict overwhelmed the Bougainville and State veterans as they openly shared feelings of what they experienced during the conflict, and for the first time, publicly apologized to each other.
Bougainville Veteran Leader Ishmael Toroama in his remarks during the joint dialogue, reflected on his experience saying that what the veterans did was what they felt was in the best interest of Bougainville.
“We as natural Bougainvilleans just came about and we try to represent what we think, what we knew was the best interest for our people,” he said.
But the conflict is a thing of the past and Mr Toroama believes that the symbolic pre-reconciliation is a positive step forward that gives courage and confidence to the people of Bougainville and to strengthen this new partnership with the national state veterans.
Former PNG Defence Force Commander Jerry Singirok, in a heartfelt statement said the sessions held this week has enabled them to talk about the lessons learnt from the Bougainville experience.
“The Bougainville experience is a stark reminder of how a nation can be brought down to its knees”
He further made a call to the National Government to ensure that former Prime Ministers who were in government at the time of the conflict, must also be part of this reconciliation process.
The joint dialogue concluded with a Reconciliation Service and traditional ceremony which saw both parties partaking in the customary ritual of breaking bows and arrows, the exchange of traditional shell money and chewing of betelnut.
The ceremony was witnessed by several leaders from the Bougainville and PNG governments, including the ABG Vice President Hon. Raymond Masono, and National Minister for Bougainville Affairs, Sir Puka Temu.
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