Lofung disputing tribes reconcile
BY JARED KOLI
Disputing tribes of Lofung land, the site for the multi-million-dollar new Patrol Boat outpost in Shortland Islands, reconciled yesterday with assurance for the groundbreaking and development of the national project to proceed.
The disputing tribes, Gome, Quormi and Saroba tribes come to good terms and ironed out their differences with FAMOA Council of Chiefs, the FAMOA Trust Board and FAMOA Working Committee in what was described as a symbolic reconciliation ceremony witnessed by more than 200 people.
Chiefs, Elders, Women, Youth and Children from the disputing communities converged at Tuha to exchange traditional food and cash, shake hands, pray and smile to each other since the dispute that kept them away from each other, according to statement from the Government Communication Unit (GCU).
“The symbolic ceremony now ironed out disputes regarding the land in question and gave assurance for the development to proceed,” it said.
Chairman of the FAMOA Council of Chiefs and Trust Board, Chief Lawrence Hotomo said the ceremony builds a bridge that now connect the disputing parties together, which gave the assurance to the Government and Donor partners the confidence the allow the project to proceed without disturbances over land.
“The ceremony shows the way forward for us people of Shortlands that our traditions are alive and well in settling our internal disputes.
“We are very happy that this ceremony helped us to come together to say sorry and accept each other once again to set the way forward for development in our Islands,” Chief Hotomo said.
Quormi and Saroba tribes who claim land rights over the land had threatened to file a case in the High Court case against FAMOA Trust Board on reasons that the transfer of the registered land at Lofung in 2003 obtained by FAMOA Trust Board were done by unscrupulous means.
In a statement to Island Sun last week, the two tribes cautioned the Australian Government of releasing the fund for the project at Lofung because the site was still in dispute, and by doing so, would cause disharmony of peace among the people of Shortland Islands.
Another disgruntled Shortland man, Alisae Laore who also claimed landownership right over the land had also threatened to challenge the FAMOA Trust Board in court.
According to GCU, yesterday’s ceremony was “symbolic indeed” and gave more assurance and hope for the people at the common Western Border between Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.
Chief Maurice Boch of Gome Tribe told the gathering that he and his people say sorry for their differences to the FAMOA and are now willing to sacrifice their patience and support to the National Border Security plans and economic development aspirations of the people of Shortlands.
“Our long Journey has come to the river where we shall cross over to the other side and work together with our Council of Chiefs and Trust Board to benefit our people,” Chief Boch said.
The ceremony was witnessed by visiting senior government officials, the police, FAMOA Chiefs and people of surrounding communities that expressed joy through traditional dancing and music.
Top leaders from the National Government and the Australian High Commission in Honiara are expected to attend the groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday this week.
Meanwhile, the historic ground-breaking for the new outpost will be held tomorrow Wednesday, June 23, 3021.
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and Australia High Commissioner are expected to attend the historic groundbreaking ceremony.
The Australian Government is funding the multimillion-dollar Border and Patrol Boat Outpost project, which Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare jointly announced in Honiara on 7 October 2019.
According to the Australian Government Department of Defence, this is part of its long-standing security cooperation with the Solomon Islands, underpinned by their bilateral security treaty.
“Defence’s support for a border and patrol boat outpost will enhance infrastructure and security cooperation between our countries, and support Solomon Islands’ border security. It aligns with the Solomon Islands’ three-phased approach to strengthen surveillance, response capability and protection of the western border.
The outpost will be used by the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) and other agencies in the country to support the people in western Solomon Islands.
The design will feature environmentally sustainable elements and will be appropriate to regional conditions, and will include a wharf capable of replenishing Guardian-Class patrol boats, accommodation buildings, and storage facilities.