Coordinated, organized and financed by the Ministry of National Unity Reconciliation and Peace (MNURP), the Ghizo Island chief and elders workshop was held on the 29th – 31st of July as one of its principle programs paving ways for rebuilding and ensuring lasting peace in Western province.
The workshop was the third series of workshops conducted by MNURP aimed at establishing model community governance by revitalizing the consciousness of leadership qualities and governance responsibilities of every tribal and community leaders and the reinstating of community respect for this important and power arm of their wellbeing, following after the already established Famoa Council Of Chiefs(FCC), Kulugha Council of Chiefs Association (KCCA) and Marovo Island Elders and Chiefs Council Association (MIECCA), Marovo Council of Chief (MCC).
Workshop Participants included community leaders from the main ethnic and cultural communities on Ghizo Island which includes leaders from Gilbertese communities of Babanga, Titiana and New Manra; Simbo descents living within Paeloqe Area, recent settlers of the northern embayment of Gizo including Kogulavata and Lebu and the descendents of the original owners of Ghizo island of Bibolo, Vorivori and Saearghi Communities.
While leaders from other main villages housing communities of Malaitan origin in Fishing Village, Waghena-based Gilbertese of Nusabaruku and original owners of Ghizo Island at Pusinau were not present at the workshop, they were included in the final charter for the Rural Ghizo Island Chiefs and Elders Association.
Ghizo Islands complex is renowned for the biggest and most bustling and vibrant commercial centre, a tourism hub, a surfer’s paradise, a natural laboratory and observatory for inquisitive minds and naturalist, an appetite for divers, the second most richest reef site in the world, second only to Raja Amput in Indonesia and a conglomerate of mixed and diverse ethnical and cultural settlers in the Western Province.
Upon the turn of events with time from both within and without such as natural and political calamities, sudden influx of commercial developments and investments and the rapid addiction to technological mediums and gadgets, hence the unmindful adoption of new lifestyles; the strength, integrity, trust and respect for leadership in the islands have been put to great tests.
With such leadership virtues as the risk of total collapse, community members begin to take on this once-well guarded and monitored island life into their own hands. As a result unprecedented conflicts begin to develop in the rural villages and were nurtured and brought to fruition on a foreign soil and most often in urban centres.
The fitting piece to the puzzle which represents our present state of life was perfectly set in by the workshop’s guest of honor, Hon Jane Tozaka at the opening with these words: “They (our people) know that they are faced with these problems but due to the complexity of these problems, they do not know how to cry out for help but to only continue to face these problems head-on only to transfer their pain, distress and agony to the person next to them, especially those having a different system of belief, social, political, religious or physical status; people whom they once lived with, shared things with and depended on since they started sharing these islands together”.
Day 1 of the workshop was the learning component of the workshop which saw very high levels of commitments and support rendered by relevant government departments from both the national and provincial government, by sharing with all the invited leaders with their specific services which all pointed towards a unified and peaceful country.
Hon Jane Tozaka, the provincial minister for state, community & church affairs opened the workshop and thereafter followed by presentations of peace programs of the relevant government ministries and Departments.
Present at the opening and all throughout the workshop was Hon John Wale, the provincial member of assembly for ward 11, Gizo. His presence and contribution to this workshop added more value and importance.
Director of Peace and Reconciliation Division, Mr Ruben Lilo commenced the presentations with the overall policies and programs of MNURP.
Western provincial police commander (PPC) superintendent John Rove, gave an overview of the appropriate powers and responsibilities asserted to every single citizen on how to contain wanton and illegal activities in the community.
The final presentation of day 1 gave a totally different perspective of mindsets on every participant which also attracted passer-bys.
It was totally uncommon to have programs of so-called containment units as part of a peace-building program, but what was being presented totally disagreed with all the prerogatives of each participant.
Correctional Service Solomon Islands’ (CSSI) presentation gave a whole new outlook to all the leaders, members of other stakeholders attending the workshop and the window-peering passers-by producing an emotional environment under the leadership of CSSI Commandant – Gizo, Senior Sergeant Timothy Haununu and the professional guidance and oratory quality of Officers George Walahaula and Clayton Horace. The Yellow Ribbon project was also introduced during the talk.
The message at the end of the day was how receptive will a community be towards ex-offenders, those whom people once regard as ex-prisoners, people are have been labelled with negative inferences and have been stigmatized for life.
Total acceptance back into the community is the appeal as all ex-offenders since they are but members of the family and community after all. In this way, peace will be always be maintained in the community
Day 2 of the program directed the leaders to a more practical outcome, bring the leaders to capture the importance of the revival of their traditional and God-given responsibilities.
Presentations on leadership qualities started off the program and followed by examples of already established chief associations, all facilitated by officers of MNURP.
Like day 1, the final presentation gave a solemn reminder to all the leaders of the importance of the stewardship and proper development of their resources was given, making known to all the leaders the already-registered Gizo Environment and Livelihood Association (GELCA): its visions, goals and action program.
Day 3 ended up with a unanimous agreement towards the establishment of Rural Gizo Island Chiefs and Elders Association.
Without wasting much time, the bulk of the day’s program was devoted into drafting of their constitution under the guidance of Wilson Liligeto, deputy director for Western province peace and reconciliation office.
The logo of the newly adopted and formulated body portrays the map of Ghizo Islands and carries the insignia of two coconuts resembling the ultimate provider and supporter of life in the islands which also represents two leadership and governance system currently operating on Ghizo Island: indigenous chiefly system and Gilbertese elders governing system.
Hovering over the map and the two coconuts is the symbol of uniqueness – the endemic sub-species Gizo White-eye bird, only known to be found on Ghizo Island.
An elder representative of Titiana Village gladly expressed; “Finally, this is the initiative after all these years will bring together all the leaders of all the communities around Gizo to address our issues together in one accord.
“I am so happy with this meeting and finally my wish is beginning to shine through, that all the different communities on Ghizo come together to make our place a happy place to live in. I was only two years old when my parents arrived in Gizo, which means I have been here for more than 60 years now and this is the first time that a program is set in place to bring us all together.”
As expected the workshop ended with a high and harmonious note.
Gizo Community Governance Awareness and Traditional Structure Peace-Building workshop is an initiative which comes under community governance program based on Leaders summit in 2008, under Resolution 4 of the Western Leaders Summit in 2008 calling for a legal mechanism to recognize the roles of the chiefs and traditional leaders as peace brokers and as the first people to settle disputes having respected and good governance to maintain law and order in their communities and as auditors to the resources of the tribal community.
Transpired from this resolution is the drafting, endorsement and vetting of the Western Province Chief’s Community Governance Ordinance, after 6 major chiefs and traditional leaders empowerment workshop that were conducted in the four year period from 2009 to 2012 unanimously gave thumbs up for this ordinance to come to pass.
In this light, in preparation for the final gazettal of the Western Province Chief’s Community Governance Ordinance, strengthening of selected community governance systems as models have been done. Gizo Island Elders workshop is one of them.