Dear Editor – Last week, on the occasion of Australia Day, the resident Australian High Commissioner, H.E. Andrew Byrne, presented a prestigious Solomon Islands Scouts and Coastwatchers medallion to Mr. James Tungi from East Guadalcanal on behalf of his late uncle, Tunggi Villia, who had served as a Solomon Scout during the occupation of the Solomon Islands by Japanese Imperial Forces during the Second World War.
The High Commissioner said the medallion recognizes that 27 Coastwatchers and 20 Solomon Islanders had made the ultimate sacrifice and were killed in action during the Second World War.
In addition to this, 18 Coastwatchers and 40 Solomon Islanders were captured during the course of the war. The Coastwatchers were also credited with rescuing 501 Allied military personnel and 450 civilians during the Second World War.
The medallions have been presented to Solomon Islands Scouts and Coastwatchers or their next of kin on behalf of the Australian Government since 2013 and a gesture for which I previously expressed my appreciation to the Australian Government.
A week prior to the medal presentation ceremony, the Prime Minister, the Hon Manasseh Sogavare, had said the Democratic Coalition for Change Government was committed to ensuring the proposed United States ‘Bloody Ridge Project’ on Guadalcanal is successfully implemented in time for the 75th Anniversary of the what has become known as the ‘Battle of Guadalcanal and the landing of Allied Forces.
In a radio New Zealand International news interview after the PM had spoken about the proposed Bloody Ridge Project, Josefa Tuamotu of the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau (SIVB), talked about the various sites that might possibly be incorporated into the proposed memorial park and he mentioned the US war memorial, the Japanese war memorial and the coast watchers site in central Honiara.
It was significant that Mr Tuamotu cited the Japanese war memorial because while the US forces suffered casualties in excess of 7,000 dead, the Japanese lost over 38,000 of their soldiers.
While it will be impossible to forget the invasion of the Solomon Islands by Japanese Forces, because we cannot selectively delete such an event from our memory, I pose the question that after nearly 75 years should we not now be looking to the advice in scripture, given to us in Philippians 3.13, which says, “As much as possible, we should forget what is behind and strive towards what is ahead?”
As much as the proposed ‘Bloody Ridge Memorial Park” will be important as a tourist site it will also, virtually, be a war cemetery where I think the relatives of former foes should, equally, be encouraged to visit and be able to pay their respects to the fallen.