A kind of mending Restorative Justice in the Pacific Islands

Type Book
Title A kind of mending Restorative Justice in the Pacific Islands
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2003
Publisher ANU E Press
City Canberra
Country/State Australia
URL http://www.oapen.org/download?type=document&docid=459350#page=179
Most of the chapters in this book were presented as papers at a
three-day conference in Port Vila, Vanuatu, in June 2000.
Organised jointly by the Australian National University’s State,
Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) Project and the
Law School of the University of the South Pacific (USP), the
conference was held at the Emalus Campus of USP. ‘Restorative
Justice and Conflict Management in the Pacific Islands’ provided
the broad theme for discussion of different approaches to crime
and conflict in the Pacific Islands and, in particular, in the
Melanesian countries that provide the research focus of the
SSGM project. In addition to the operations of formal state
mechanisms, speakers were encouraged to address informal
approaches to conflict resolution including quasi-traditional
strategies and the role of non-state agencies. There are growing
concerns about conflict and criminality in many parts of the
Pacific Islands. ‘Law and order’ problems, as they are
euphemistically termed, reflect the many dislocative effects of
larger processes of social and economic change taking place in
the region. Much of the policy debate generated by these
developments has been directed at the need to strengthen state
agencies and processes of law enforcement. Less attention has
been paid to the role, actual and potential, of those informalstructures and processes that in many places continue to wield
more influence than do the institutions of the modern nationstate.

In addition to general issues of lawlessness, the region
has been shaken by a number of complex internal conflicts in
recent years. These have inevitably focused attention on the
challenges of conflict prevention and resolution. A nine-year
civil war on Bougainville, precipitated by landowner grievances
over levels of compensation for mining development, has
inflicted enormous suffering on the people of that island, as well
as causing significant economic and political damage to Papua
New Guinea. In May 2000, just over a month before the
Vanuatu conference, George Speight led an armed takeover of
the Parliamentary complex in Suva and held Prime Minister
Mahendra Chaudhry and members of his Cabinet hostage. As
with the earlier Rabuka-led coup of 1987, the Speight coup was
executed on the pretext of protecting the rights of indigenous
Fijians against alleged encroachment by Indo–Fijians, particularly
in relation to land. These actions have had devastating social,
economic and politics impacts in Fiji.
On the 5th June 2000, a couple of weeks after the Fiji
coup, members of an armed militia group (the Malaitan Eagle
Force — MEF), with the active collaboration of elements of the
Solomon Islands police, seized control of key installations in
the national capital, Honiara. Prime Minister Bartholomew
Ulufa’alu was forced to resign. The Solomon Islands coup had
been preceded by two years of mounting tensions between the
indigenous inhabitants of Guadalcanal and settlers from the
neighbouring island of Malaita. Up to 20,000 of the latter were
displaced forcibly from their rural homes by militant
Guadalcanal groups. These events paralysed the Solomon
Islands state and national economy and resulted in the collapse
of the national police force.

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