In order to ascertain the way in which reconciliation was pursued throughout the TRC public hearing process, the transcripts from the public hearings, which are found in the TRC Final Report were analyzed. Qualitative data coding software QDA Miner was used to search for key terms and phrases, including ‘reconciliation,’ ‘coming together,’ and ‘asking the perpetrator to come forward.’ Passages related to forgiveness were also included in the search and analysis, as it became apparent from the transcripts that witnesses also used the public hearing as a space through which forgiveness could be offered. Given that forgiveness is innately tied to reconciliation both in general theory about reconciliation as well as within Solomon Islands culture, it was valuable to include in the search.
The focus group interviews reported on below were conducted as part of a larger research project on the Solomon Islands TRC conducted by Brouneus during 2010-2013.1 A total of 19 focus groups were conducted in 2011 and 2013. Focus groups were conducted in different villages/neighborhoods in each of the three research locations: Honiara, Guadalcanal, and Malaita.2 The research locations were chosen according to where the violence took place during the Tensions. Although there are variations within each locality, it is in these three locations of the country that ethnic tensions were, and in some cases continue to be, most acute. The locations represent a mix of urban and rural areas, including some very remote areas, a choice made in order to study the reach of the TRCs work and thereby see to what extent people were involved in, and thereby could be affected by, the process. The most remote areas were reached by canoe.
For the focus groups, the research team leaders were introduced to key people by the village heads or by the Church to initiate a snowball sampling of participants. In some cases, the team leaders would walk around the village asking people if they would be interested to participate. The focus groups were guided by a set of core questions, which were asked to each group. In this way, data could be collected systematically (by receiving different perspectives about the same questions across groups) while still allowing for each focus group discussion to take its own direction at any point; the interviewers could then guide participants back to the core questions when appropriate. The core questions focused on the following five themes: Island/Ethnic belonging; the TRC; Trust; Security; and Peace. In 2011, seven focus groups were conducted, consisting of between six and eight participants: three of the groups consisted of men only, three of women only, and one group included both men and women. In 2013, 12 focus groups were conducted, each consisting of the same number of participants as before; however, this time we had only all-men (6) and all-female (6) groups. This ‘same sex’ design tried in 2011 proved fruitful compared to the mixed group as hypothesized: in the Solomon Islands culture, women often speak more freely with women and men with men.3