Flowers in the Wall: Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste, Indonesia, and Melanesia
What is the experience of truth and reconciliation? What is the purpose of a truth commission? What lessons can be learned from established truth and reconciliation processes?
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Flowers in the Wall explores the experience of truth and reconciliation in Timor-Leste, Indonesia, and the Solomon Islands. It examines the pre- and post-truth commission phases, providing a diversity of interconnected scholarship. Well-researched and balanced, this book examines the effectiveness of the truth commission in transnational justice. It offers valuable lessons to Canadians and all others trying to attain the goal of truth and reconciliation.
As those will know who have participated in it, this process is complex and ongoing. Although the operational phases of truth commissions have been well examined, the efforts to establish these commissions and the struggle to put their recommendations into effect are often overlooked.
In part, this book is an outcome of a program in which Pacific People’s Partnership (PPP) was involved in 2015: “Memory, Truth and Reconciliation, a collaborative research project and workshop on truth and reconciliation in East Timor and West Papua,” https://memorytruthreconciliation.wordpress.com/. It was held in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, and reported on in PPP’s 40th Anniversary Tok Blong Pasifik issue in 2015. Dr David Webster secured the funding via university sources that brought to this event PPP Executive Director, April Ingham, and Betty Gigisi, a peacekeeper in Solomon Islands during and after that country’s Civil War.
Inspired by her participation in the landmark Ottawa event, April Ingham shared: “PPP was founded in Canada in 1975 in response to nuclear testing in the South Pacific. We successfully contributed to international solidarity movements to stop the testing, and have been actively rooted within human rights, social and ecological justice work ever since. Our past campaigns and initiatives included support for peacekeeping and the truth and reconciliation processes within East Timor and Solomon Islands, and for three decades we have maintained a special focus on the human rights atrocities against the Melanesian peoples of West Papua, Indonesia. Central to our work is connecting Indigenous peoples across the Pacific for knowledge sharing and solidarity building. We actively engaged in Canada’s TRC processes and are working on several TRC recommendations in support of our Indigenous peoples and allies.”
She goes on to say, “PPP believes in the power of partnerships, the importance of nation to nation relations and in our shared learning for the betterment of all. So we are thrilled to see the realization of Flowers in the Wall. It offers important reflections and learnings about the opportunities such pathways present to people who continue to suffer injustice, such as those still battling the darkness like our Melanesian brothers and sisters in West Papua, Indonesia. It serves as an invaluable accompaniment to the essential work of building peace.”
David Webster teaches international and Asian history at Bishop’s University in Canada’s province of Quebec. His academic interest is 20th century history. He is the author of Fire and the Full Moon: Canada and Indonesia in a Decolonizing World, and a collection editor of East Timor: Testimony.
“There is a role for historical research and memory in helping to build sustainable peace and stability in new nations,” he declares. “On the other hand, ignoring violent pasts undermines peace building efforts.
“In the wake of conflict and crimes against humanity, more and more countries are forming a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC). A tool developed for use in less developed countries emerging from conflicts, it has also been applied in Canada which is the only Western developed country to have held a full truth commission around the legacy of residential schools for indigenous people. Truth knows no borders. Increasingly, neither do truth commissions,” Dr Webster concludes.