A Truth and Reconciliation Commission has begun in the Solomon Islands, with old wounds opening as the country delves back into its violent past to tell stories of murder and loss.
The commission held its first public hearings into the ethnic violence that rocked the country between 1997 and 2003, claiming more than 20 lives and forcing 20,000 people to flee their homes.
School students lined the entrance to the commission, a symbol that the proceedings are not just about the country’s past but also its future.
Its chairman, Father Sam Ata, says it is important victims of the ethnic violence that are able to speak.
“So the entire country listens and begins to accept this tragedy as part of its own history,” he said.
John Dion was the first person to address the commission. He was attacked by members of a militia in 1999.
He said a militia group beat him in his village on the main island of Guadalcanal.
“They seated me there in front of my kids and wife and they began to beat me, saying that I’m a coward,” he said.
Furner Arabouti said a militia group murdered her older brother and that his autopsy report later disappeared.
Robert Buga told the commission his uncle was also murdered and the violence forced him to leave his plantation.
Some in the crowd wept as the stories were told. The hearings will continue later today.
© 2008 Australian Broadcasting Corporation