By ANDREW FANASIA
WORDS cannot express the feeling and emotion when Demas Parau expressed his appreciation to the people and the government of Solomon Islands for sheltering Bougainvilleans during the darkest history of their country.
Parau, the President of the Bougainville Solomon Islands Association (BSIA) in Honiara could not fight back his tears of joy and appreciation when he spoke to Solomon Star in Honiara, Thursday.
“I must honestly tell you that this is a very different feeling for me and my people right here when we cast our ballot paper to vote for Bougainville independence referendum,” he said.
Hailed from South Bougainville and a heavy plant mechanic, Parau crossed the international border in 1991 during the height of the civil war to get medical treatment under the Red Cross program at that time.
“At that time medical service in Bougainville was in total mess and people were dying just because there was no medical service available for us,” he said.
Parau since then settled in Honiara with his family but regularly makes visits to his relatives in Bougainville.
“But today I do not want my people and I to dwell on the past but to focus on what lies ahead for Bougainville and her people.
“We have wanted this for a long time,” he emotionally expressed.
And also today Parau said “we the Bougainville community in Honiara could not hold back our thankful heart to the people and the government of Solomon Islands for welcoming us to your shores during the civil war on our land.”
He stressed that the voting that happened yesterday in Honiara was made possible because Solomon Islands past and present government has also contributed to the political process to see that peace in Bougainville must prevail.
“I on behalf of the Bougainville community want to pass our million thanks to you the people of Solomon Islands and your past and present government.
“You have kept us, you treat us like your very own people since the civil war destroyed our island and our people,” Parau tearfully told Solomon Star.
He further expressed his apologies on behalf of his people in Bougainville to the people of Solomon Islands during and after the crisis.
“I am honestly sorry for what my people did and I want to ask your forgiveness for the wrongs that was done to our brothers and sisters in Solomon Islands,” he added.
More than 300 Bougainvilleans living in Honiara turned up at the Papua New Guinea Chancery building to vote for the Bougainville’s independence referendum yesterday.