BY MIKE PUIA
MEMBERS of the Kiribati community in Honiara have all the reasons to celebrate on Thursday.
Not only it’s their Independence Day but, their wish to return to the land they called “second home” at Foxwood, on North Guadalcanal, has finally been fulfilled yesterday.
Members of the Kiribati community presented shell money, chupus and cash to Ghaobata tribal leaders and the door to return to where they once settled was opened.
The people of Kiribati were allocated a land area at Foxwood by the colonial government in the 1970s. They were given a Perpetual Estate (PE) title.
Kiribati people settled there for years. There were even intermarriages taking place.
When the ethnic crisis broke out on Guadalcanal, 19 years ago, they abandoned the land for fear of their lives.
Not until peace was restored in 2003, when the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) arrived, that they wanted to return.
Their long wish to return was settled yesterday during a reconciliation and recognition ceremony.
For members of the Kiribati community, it’s a ‘thank you for accepting us back’ ceremony while for the indigenous people on North Guadalcanal it was a ‘welcome back’ ceremony.
Chiefs representing tribal groups within Ghaobata House of Chiefs, Member of Parliament for North Guadalcanal Mr Samson Maneka, Guadalcanal province’s deputy premier Mr Peter Araonisaka, representatives from the Office of the Prime Minister, officers of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, Guadalcanal Post Conflict Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Restoration Association president Mr Joseph Sangu and members of the communities round Foxwood witness the ceremony.
Speaking at the ceremony, MP for North Guadalcanal Mr Maneka thanked chiefs and leaders in the region for their wisdom in making sure the Kiribati people return.
Being a former Minister for the Ministry of National Unity Reconciliation and Peace, he said it has been his wish to see peace prevailed in the constituency.
Maneka said the event fulfilled his dream for the constituency to enjoy love and peace.
He said there will be ups and downs but he trusts leaders, especially chiefs and leaders of the constituency and that of the Kiribati community will ensure there is peace.
Maneka assured the Kiribati people that as their MP, he will make sure they enjoy their stay.
Deputy Premier of the province, Mr Araonisaka, encourages his people to show caring attitude toward the people of Kiribati who returned to their land.
He said they were with them but situation forced them to leave and now they are back.
Araonisaka said the chupus and gifts the Kiribati people presented is a huge thing, based on Guadalcanal tradition, and so it must be respected.
He added “you are now part of Guadalcanal”.
Respected elder from the Kiribati community in Honiara, Mr John Bakeua, made a powerful and emotional respond.
Bakeua said their people were once North Guadalcanal brothers and sisters until the country’s dark days.
He said had there were no dark days they are still with North Guadalcanal people.
Bakeua said the speeches from Guadalcanal leaders have strike them to the nerves.
He said there are no words to say thank you for the assurance and acceptance given to them.
Bakeua said the ceremony presents a new light and life for his people.
“I can only assure you that your culture will be our culture,”
“Look to us as one of you,” Bakeua added.