Link: Pacific Islands Report
Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i


Ex-Militant Escapee Criticizes Solomon Islands Peace Process
Blames government for ethnic tensions, hindering reconciliation

By Jeremy Inifiri

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Nov. 27, 2012) – True lasting peace and reconciliation cannot be achieved until a national peace and reconciliation ceremony is organized in the Solomon Islands, according to a recording reputedly made by escaped fugitive Francis Lela.

Lela and other prisoners escaped into the Botanical Garden forests this year, but a man-hunt to catch the former Guadalcanal militant failed.

An audio recording claimed to be that of the escaped prisoner obtained by this paper yesterday contain a recording of what Lela wanted the Government to hear.

The15 minutes recorded audio (in Solomon Islands pidgin) was dropped off at the Solomon Star office yesterday afternoon by an informant who claimed to know associates of the fugitive.

The audio recording was claimed to have been produced two weeks ago at Lela’s village in Mbabanakira, Weathercoast of Guadalcanal.

Mr. Lela was one of three men who successfully escaped from the Correctional Services Facility at Rove on 5, October 2012.

In the audio, the male voice introduced himself as Francis Lela, a political prisoner at the Rover Correctional Services Facility since 2003, who had recently escaped.

He also outlined reasons as to why true and lasting peace can never be achieved in the country.

He also said that the government is to be blamed for causing the ethnic tension and also being the reason for no achievement of a lasting peace in the country.

He described his escape from Rove as a ‘miraculous escape’ and that it had a purpose.

He claimed the reason behind their escape was because the national government had promised a lot of things to all former militants still at Rove, but failed to fulfill since 2003.

He accused the government of lying to all former militants by holding a national peace and reconciliation; which he said has not been achieved.

"The government lost millions of dollars in bringing over Sir Desmond Tutu from Africa with the aim of achieving peace; however that has not been achieved. Also the Sycamore Tree program which was aimed at sparking peace and reconciliation in the country, failed to work out.

"And even though TRC was established and did a lot of things to try and find out the root cause of the problem, it did not work either," he said.

He also stressed that the two warring parties of Guadalcanal and Malaita have waited on the government for far too long.

He questioned when the government will put the two warring parties together, and hold a national reconciliation and rehabilitation for all former militants.

"This is the main problem in the country, it should be addressed before this country can go forward," he said.

The voice in the recording said that some of the inmates at Rove had been there for far too long, adding that they should be pardoned and brought out, paving the way for national reconciliation to take place.

The audio recording of the man claimed as Lela also criticized the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

"RAMSI came into this country not to give us reconciliation but rather to rob us."

He said RAMSI personnel over the years at times broke the laws of the country but remained immune to prosecution-something which he described as an injustice to local Solomon Islanders.

"So does the law [apply] to them as well or is it only one-sided to us Solomon Islanders? Why does the government have to bow down to them?"

He was referring to two particular incidences - the shooting incident at Titinge during which a Guadalcanal man died and a traffic incident which claimed the life of a Malaita woman. "These laws need to be changed so that it covers everyone," he said.

Meanwhile he warned that the people of Weathercoast area still do not accept Police into their communities until a reconciliation held between Police and the people in relation to the shooting incident involving the Police patrol boat in the area during the height of the ethnic tension.

"We do not accept any negotiations or dialogue to take place. All we want is for this issue to be settled," he said. Attempts to talk to police last night were unsuccessful.

The informant said the message Lela sent with the recording was for the audio to be delivered to The Solomon Star.

Solomon Star
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