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Source: PNG Attitude

Peace ceremony - PNG's equitable code of justice



THE TRADITIONAL CODE OF CONFLICT SOLUTION known as the peace ceremony is PNG's most equitable and timeless alternative justice system. 

In peace ceremonies, the aggrieved parties come together in a public gathering to a neutral location with money and goods like animals, food stuffs etc. The money and goods are exchanged between the aggrieved parties preluded by heart-moving words of remorse, forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration and friendship from the chiefs and leaders of both sides witnessed by church and community leaders including officials of the law and justice.


The amount they give each other is dependent on the degree of damage or suffering one incurs or endures as a result of the conflict. Naturally the party that suffers the most or incurs the worse damage is given more and vice versa.


 The peace agreement is profoundly binding and lasting because the amount of money and goods that are exchanged hands are have being negotiated and mutually agreed on by both parties in peace mediation. Negotiations continue if and when there is a disagreement until a final agreement is reached. Then the peace ceremony is equitably and amicably executed.


The money and the goods add substance and value to the whole peace making. Without either a peace agreement would deem vain and unbinding vulnerable to collapse sooner or later.


Tears and/or hugs are instant signs of total remorse, forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration, friendship, peace and harmony. They are the first indicators of a true and lasting peace.


Moreover, there is no loser in a peace ceremony. Both parties are winners.


In contrast, in a modern court of law, there is only one winner and it is either the complainant or the defendant depending on how one convinces the court with his or her evidence regardless of the veracity of the affidavits. The worst villain can bluff his or her way out making the innocent unjustifiably bear the brunt of the law.


On many occasions the victims of such legal blunders take the law into their own hands because they lose faith in the modern legal justice system. They seek justice themselves.


 For this and other reasons, many Papua New Guineans prefer peace ceremony than a court of law to solve their conflicts even in this advancing modern society.


A classic example is the recent peace ceremony that was held between the Highlands Police Mobile Squads 05, 06 and 07 and their colleagues in the National Capital District on Friday 11 May, 2012 at the McGregor Police Barracks in Port Moresby. 

The brief background information is that three groups of highlands based police mobile squads were flown into the National Capital District under the direction of the O'Neill-Namah regime at the height of the political impasse between Somare and O'Neill and the related divisions in the public service and the armed forces.


In April this year, in a spill-over incident, the highlands based mobile squads bashed up the members of the National Capital District highway patrol unit and their OIC Sgt Paul Simon alleging they were carrying out private escorts. The incident escalated the enmity among the already divided PNG Royal Constabulary particularly in the national capital.


Reconciliation and peace amongst the two factions were hardly anticipated at least in the foreseeable future.


Fear of the conflict being blown into anarchy was rife. Nonetheless the undreamt peace had reigned sooner than expected thanks to the peace ceremony system and the peace initiators.


The peace ceremony as reported on page 4 of the National Newspaper of May 14, 2012, the HMSs gave 8 pigs and K10,000 cash to their NCD colleagues. The NCD police in return gave four pigs, one beast and 80 cartons of soft drinks to the members of the HMSs.


Giving credence to the peace making were the emotional words of remorse, apology, forgiveness, reconciliation, peace and unity from both sides.


National Capital District metropolitan commander Peter Guiness described the nature of the conflict and how peace could possibly be achieved after all as; "In my experience I have never seen anything like this."


"It's a dead issue and we must unite and operate as one police. We are sorry for what had happened." Group Sgt Major Kelly Sombe of the HMSs remorsefully apologised. "If you come to the highlands, we promise to give you the best treatment." Sombe promised referring to the 300 NCD police that would be deployed in the highlands for the 2012 national elections security operations.


"We are all brothers. We will be brothers and friends forever," Sgt Paul Simon of NCD said in response. "From the bottom of our hearts we forgive you" he added.


And so the conflict was resolved and peace had prevailed there and then.


The PNG traditional code of conflict solution may have not been designed to handle serious and complex conflicts involving the police force, the army, the judges or the politicians and so forth.


However, time and again when the concept is tested it is always proven to be superior, equitable and timeless. The above case is another example and milestone. It proves that peace ceremony is the most equitable and timeless alternative mode of conflict solution in PNG.


The European Shareholders of Bougainville Copper (ESBC)