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Keriaka's contribution to the peace process in Papua New Guinea

Copyrights: Media Officer - PNG Sports Foundation

Keriaka's contribution to the peace process in Papua New Guinea

As the eyes of the world zoom in on the referendum process in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, a little known and perhaps forgotten community has contributed to the future of its island nation.

The islands of Bougainville, now known as the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (AROB), came to the world's attention when a local militant uprising broke out in 1988 over the operation of a multi-billion kina copper, gold and silver mine, which led to thousands of lives lost, disadvantaged, and disoriented. 

During the 10-year bloodshed, everything came to a standstill. There was little by way of social development in the islands and the people suffered immensely. 

Families were broken apart and brothers never saw eye to eye.

Even local women married to men from the mainland could not return home and cried vehemently for peace to be restored so they could return home and see their loved ones - God willing - alive. 

As the fighting died down in 1994 during a ceasefire and finally ended in 1997, various government and non-government missions, both from mainland Papua New Guinea and the world, chipped in their bit to restore the lives of the affected. Development has trickled back into the fabric of the war-torn island nation, which at one time hosted the world’s largest pit mine and produced 45% of Papua New Guinea's national exports all on its own.

In the midst of efforts to restore peace in preparation for the impending referendum, Tokoro village along the west coast of Bougainville has done it's bit to prepare for the referendum.

It was the host to the Keriaka Peace and Unity Games - an initiative of the Papua New Guinea Sports Foundation (PNGSF), through its regional office responsible for sports development and sports for development in the Momase, New Guinea Islands, including AROB.

Preparations to host the games began early this year in April, when the PNG Sports Foundation opened its AROB office. In the same month, a reconciliation ceremony was held with all chiefs in Keriaka, which then led to the Peace and Unity Games being held in commemoration.

Keriaka has seven wards, of which six participated: Buruwe, Tuehi, Koraka, Bessi, Porah and Sinamiri/Kurayo. The PNG Sports Foundation AROB manager, Annette Semoso, was proud of successfully hosting the foundation's first project since being established in April:

"The overwhelming response from the community showed great interest and support for sport and its role as an avenue to create peace and unity. 

"My highlight of the games was seeing mothers taking time off from their household chores to go onto the courts and fields. They traveled long distances just to be part of the event, which they trust to bring the community together.

"The community really appreciated such an event since it was the first of its kind in their community and the office's first project in the region." 

Semoso added that all in all sports can help address a lot of social issues in the community and instill change in the mindsets of our youths and community. 

"Through this event, I also had the chance to visit this amazing and beautiful untouched place. Thank you PNG Sport Foundation for the opportunity as regional manager momase/NGI for the continuous support given to us staff in the region and not forgetting our executive director for making the event possible.

A young mother, Celine Masiria, the captain of the women's volleyball team Buruwe, said it was a first time event and the community was very excited: "This event has brought us all together and we are united with one mind. The participation of our wards in these games shows the reconciliation between the wards. For some of us, it is the very first time to touch a ball."

PNG Sports Foundation CEO Peter Tsiamalili Junior said the games were Tokoro's contribution to the peace process with the upcoming referendum, and added that the games will be held again during this year's Christmas period amidst a chorus of joy from the community. 

"These games are worth more than money. It signals my joy at seeing your participation. All stories about drugs and homebrew must end here!

"The next super star of the world should come from Keriaka from the Keriaka Peace Games!

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Article type

News

Author

Peter Sevara Jr.

Published

Friday, August 16, 2019 - 11:37