KEITH JACKSON | From New Dawn FM report
BUKA – Health minister and member for Bolave in the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Dennis Lokonai, has praised former Papua New Guinea Defence Force commander Jerry Singirok for reconciling with the Bougainville people.
Mr Lokonai also thanked Mr Singirok for the courageous stand he took against a decision of the then PNG government to engage mercenaries to fight against the Bougainville people in the civil war that raged for 10 years from 1989.
As PNGDF commander, the then Brigadier-General Singirok defied the government which, following the retreat of regular forces from Bougainville, was seeking to bring in mercenary soldiers organised by a company called Sandline.
Mr Lokonai said in doing this, the commander lost his job and all the benefits and privileges that went with the position.
He said the people of Bougainville are still trying to heal the pains of the Bougainville conflict in which the PNGDF was heavily involved.
He said Bougainvilleans are peace-loving and will continue to forgive those who killed and fought against the people of Bougainville.
Mr Lokonai said the Bougainville people forgave Mr Singirok for his part in the Bougainville crisis, in which up to 20,000 are estimated to have died.
He also thanked leaders of the Seventh Day Adventist church for organising the reconciliation ceremony with Mr Singirok at Bana High School in south Bougainville.
The reconciliation was also attended by the former Bougainville Revolutionary Army commander, Ishmael Toroama, whose irregular soldiers fought against PNGDF troops.