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The family of a Resistance Force member who was killed in action during the Bougainville crisis can now finally formally lay his remains to rest after 25 years.
The remains of the Late Linus Meeri, from Hinno in the Siwai District, South Bougainville, were dug up from the Marai Parish grounds in Kieta District and returned to his family who attended a reconciliation ceremony to formalise the proceedings.
Meeri was killed during heavy fighting between the Papua New Guinea Defence Force and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army in the lower Aropanari area in 1993.
He was found dead by the BRA after the fighting subsided and was carried up to the Marai Parish grounds where he was buried although details of how he died are sketchy.
This inter-district reconciliation ceremony is the first of its kind in the lead up to Referendum next year and was organised through the joint efforts of the Siwai District Peace and Security Committee headed by Peter Tengka and his Kieta counterpart, Tony Moera assisted by the Bougainville Partnership office in Arawa.
Speaking at Marai,Tengka acknowledged the people of Kieta, especially the people of Aropanari for giving Meeri a proper burial during the crisis although he was part of the PNGDF-backed Resistance Forces and for agreeing to release his remains to his relatives in Siwai.
“I acknowledge all ex-combatants, the chiefs from South Nasioi, the Kieta District Peace and Security Committee and also the Bougainville Partnership office for facilitating for the remains to be returned to his family and I believe this is the start of more inter-district reconciliations to recover and return remains of many of our people who died during the crisis,” he said.
Representing Meeri’s family, Joseph Hurokoli apologised to the people of Marai and Aropanari for the sufferings they endured at the hands of the PNGDF and Resistance.
“Linus came here with the PNGDF and although he was with the enemy, we are indebted to you for recognising him and giving him a dignified burial as a fellow Bougainvillean even though you were on opposing sides,” he said.
“There a lot of our loved ones whose remains are still in the bushes and buried elsewhere and there is still a lot of work to be done to bring them home for proper burial.”
Hurokoli said the return of the remains would now erase any bitterness between the people of Siwai and Kieta and further strengthen ties between the two districts.
The reconciliation ceremony saw the exchange of pigs and garden food under the respective customary rites of the people of Siwai and Kieta.
More than K700 (US$214) worth of cash and traditional shell money were also presented by the Siwai people to compensate the people of Marai and South Nasioi for giving Meeri a proper burial and for taking care of his remains over the years.
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