On Saturday 27 March, in Aotearoa New Zealand, a new monument will be unveiled by New Zealand Prime Minister Rt Hon. Jacinda Ardern. The Pacific War Memorial, in the shape of a giant bronze conch shell, is named ‘Te Reo Hotunui o Te Moana Nui a Kiwa – the deep sigh of the Pacific.’
In acknowledgement of the significant involvement of Solomon Islanders in the Second World War, and the ongoing impacts felt and connections we share, a small ceremony was held on Friday, ahead of the unveiling, to convey our voices down to Aotearoa New Zealand.
Invited guests included representatives from Solomon Islands Government, other diplomatic partners, and the Solomon Scouts and Coastwatcher’s Trust including their patron Honourable Peter Kenilorea. Chief Willie Besi of Barana village and New Zealand High Commissioner Georgina Roberts called out messages across oceans and on the winds on behalf of those assembled on top Hill 27.
Chief Willie Besi, speaking in his own language – Ghari, called out “we pay our sincere honour and respect to all the individuals who lost their lives during the war and to their families. As it is part of our culture and way of life, Solomon Islands acknowledge the sacrifice that these people have shown irrespective of which country they are from, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, United States of America or our Pacific neighbours and we respect them for that.
“We know innocent lives were taken away from us too,” Chief Willie Besi added, “but we join our hearts together and send our warm comforts out to all our fellow Pacific Island family who are also part of this history that we share together.”
High Commissioner Georgina Roberts emphasised the whanaungatanga (connection) and manaakitanga (support and generosity) that we share. “We stand together as whanaunga and friends here in Solomon Islands, to acknowledge the service given, the sacrifices made, the courage shown, the lives impacted and the connections that bind us together.”
She then called out to the people who will assemble in Aotearoa New Zealand on Saturday, with an incantation of love and support:
Ka tukana ta matou whakaaro pai ki a koutou katoa – whakarongo mai ki ta matou karanga atu, a matou karanga aroha ki a koutou! Kia tau, kia tatou katoa te atawhai a to tatou Ariki. Me te aroha o te Atua, me te whiwhinga tahitanga ki te wairua tapu, Ake ake ake tonu atu.
The main focus of New Zealand’s Pacific war effort in World War II was in Solomon Islands, where all three services (army, navy, and air force) saw considerable action. Royal New Zealand Navy ships served alongside American forces and from late 1942 Royal New Zealand Air Force fighter and bomber squadrons flew from Guadalcanal. The following year, Guadalcanal was a staging point for men of the New Zealand Army’s 3rd Division, who occupied Vella Lavella and Mono Island.
The unveiling ceremony in Aotearoa New Zealand, starting at 9am Solomon Islands time, will be livestreamed on Facebook and broadcast through Pasifika TV, which can be watched on TTV or online. Solomon Islands Acting High Commissioner to New Zealand John Kemakeza and Melanesian Women’s Association President Glorious Oxenham will represent Solomon Islands at the ceremony.