Conference report 8: Witnessing to Hope, 13-20th August 2000, Caux, Switzerland

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"After George Speight's military-inspired coup of May 19 this year, the indigenous people of Fiji, of which I am one, have an image as intolerant racists," said Jone Dakuvula, former adviser to the Prime Minister and now spokesman for the Citizens Constitution Forum, an NGO working to restore democracy.
'Two days after the coup I went to visit Mrs Chaudhry, the wife of the deposed Prime Minister, to express my sympathy and wish that the illegal seizure of her husband's government would soon be resolved. Later I took the opportunity to apologise publicly for what had been done to her husband in the name of us indigenous Fijians. My article was widely read and Mrs Chaudhry received hundreds of letters from Fijians all over the world.
The morning after the release of the hostages I went to see Mr Chaudhry who embraced and thanked me for my article.
We have realised that the Constitutional democracy which we want to restore in Fiji must be underpinned by a culture of tolerance and respect."

Papua New Guinea

This year Papua New Guinea (PNG) celebrates its 25th anniversary of independence. The copper-rich island of Bougainville is part of PNG. An armed conflict and a secessionist struggle cost 15-20,000 lives - 10% of the island's population - between 1989 and 1997. The conflict was both between Bougainvilleans themselves and between the island and the central government. Sir Michael Somare was Papua New Guinea's first Prime Minister and is now Minister for Bougainville Affairs. He attended with two colleagues who represent Bougainville in the national parliament. Sir Michael spoke about his country's recent struggle to overcome this conflict: "Political reconciliation has been an important feature - and facilitator - of the peace process in Bougainville. Today, after a number of false starts and minor set-backs, a Bougainville interim provincial government has been set up and operates under the Papua New Guinea constitution."
Sam Akoitai, MP for Central Bougainville, expressed his satisfaction at the signal from the central government that the island may be granted autonomy within the nation of Papua New Guinea. From 1991 he led the resistance forces which supported the national government's efforts to restore order in Bougainville. He discovered to his dismay that his own resistance forces had committed unlawful killings and victimised innocent people, as the other parties to the conflict had done. "I decided to think deeply about the conflict. As a leader I had to make a move towards peace. In 1994 my uncle was killed. I asked myself: If my uncle is dead, must I add more bodies on top of that of my uncle?" Sam Akoitai began talks with the rebels and entered their territory unarmed. Thanks to a nephew in the rebel forces he was saved from being killed. Soldiers in the security forces also wanted to get rid of him. However, his conviction was: "I do not make peace by talking with my friends, but by talking with my enemies."

"I do not make peace by talking with my friends, but by talking with my enemies."


For a number of years the Governor General of Jamaica, Sir Howard Cooke has brought delegations from his country to the Agenda for Reconciliation conferences at Caux. This year the delegation included distinguished jurists, the director of prisons, a member of Parliament, a leader of the nurses' organisation, people in business, teachers and others.

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