WIDJE Committee, November 28… was born

During its second meeting at Kouergoa tribe on Friday June 26, the November 28, 2020 commemoration Organizing Committee decided to name it WIDJE Committee, November 28. A first meeting was convened at SMSP Head Office during which Sarah Manzanares welcomed on behalf of SMSP, all the EC members present including representatives of Koniambo Nickel, NMC and Cotransmine. The objective is to bring together all the personnel of the company and those of its subsidiaries in order to commemorate in the unit this essential date for the SMSP.

The event. On Monday, November 27, 2000, 7 people, including the entire SMSP Management Directors, were killed in a helicopter crash at Chefao locality. The victims are: Raphaël PIDJOT SMSP CEO, Jean-Pierre LAPOUS SMSP Managing Director, Jean-Pierre GASTALDI SMSP Technical Director, Régis VIVIER SMSP Financial Director, Jean-Marc DALMASSO SMSP Pilot; Pierre THOLLO and Robert GARDINAR, two consultants from the Canadian Falconbridge Group. 2020 will mark the 20th anniversary of the crash.

Sarah! As main initiator and coordinator of this gathering, what are the reasons behind this common project?

“Small, medium or large company, the WIDJE Committee, November 28 was the appropriate solution to bring together all the SMSP subsidiaries’ works councils and allow discussion on the Commemoration Day and related projects; to share each other’s vision and coordinate our actions.

This committee facilitates teamwork, helps strengthen member’s solidarity; to disseminate the communication quickly and regularly; to participate in decisions, and above all, to share each other’s initiatives. Our meetings are a real pleasure; our committee offers employees the ability to express themselves around a common goal, to find solutions within the same objectives.

Indeed, this committee is created for the 20 years’ commemoration of the loss of our leaders and a number of collaborators but our will is to ensure the sustainability of our actions. For SMSP, it is a strong symbol, a place for sharing ideas and actions to honor our history and pay tribute to our pillars.”

The Kouergoa Tribe is an integral and central member of this committee. Roger THEVEDIN, Kouergoa Custom Chief, but also President of the Council of Chiefs of the Xaraccu Customary Land Area (including Municipalities of Bouloupari, Canala, Farino, Kouaoua, La Foa, Sarraméa and Thio) explains the reasons why the tribe continues to honor this commemoration over the years.

“I worked at SMSP’s Nord Industries Services headed by Mr. Raphaël PIDJOT. For me he was a great man who had the power to change the country.” Very moved, he adds: “He chose to come and kill himself at home. It is as if the tribe welcomed him for the last time as he left this world. I have always wanted the tribe to respect this date. It must not always be remembered. It is a responsibility that rests on the shoulders of this tribe today, and in the years to come. We met the PIDJOT family, including Lucien PIDJOT, the victim’s brother, during the customary ceremony to bring Raphaël’s soul back to his Conception Tribe. The word that accompanied this custom was to release and lift up the burden of the commemoration weighed on the Kouergoa Tribe. We accepted this custom, but the customary word was reformulated and then handed over to them. Our tribe will continue to honor this date every year. It is a responsibility that we bear today, but that our children and grandchildren will continue to carry on into the future. Raphaël gave his life for the Kanaks. It must not be forgotten. And Kouergoa want to keep in memory and remember that.”

Roger THEVEDIN explains that this custom was carried out by Chief KAENADI (deceased) owner of the crash site land. In addition, he gives the meaning of the word “Chefao”, which means “which attracts scrap metal” as well as the word Widjè which is the question of “Why?”

Simon KAGNADY is from Kouergoa Tribe, where he is living by cultivating his garden. This day of November 28, 2000, he will remember all his life. He was at home when he heard a loud explosion bang. The next morning, he was called to the crash site and saw with consternation, in an apocalyptic scene, the scale of the disaster and the loss of lives. Everything is marked out by the gendarmes, it is impossible to approach it, but the images remain anchored in his memory. This event has forever marked his life as well as that of all his family. Thus, for 14 years, he walked this path which leads to the crest of the crash site as a pilgrimage, accompanied by his wife and his 6 children, to camp and pay respect to the victims during the weekend, thus maintaining the premises before going down on Sunday to bring the children back to school. He thus participated in the rehabilitation works of the road leading to the gathering site. And with some emotion he concludes: “As a human being, there are pictures that memory can hardly contain without hatred. The question remains why…?” The time passing remains the right companion on the healing road.

Miguel ATE, comes from the tribe of the Bwerawa Chiefdom and member of Pime Clan, “a clan of warriors” in Canala. Miguel has been a loyal and enthusiastic participant as well as organizer of the event since the day of the crash.

Miguel explains: “During the first 3 years, there was no common and agreed organization for this commemoration. This begun in 2005. The SMSP subsidiaries various Works Councils have approached their respective management to have this day recognized as an SMSP Mourning Day, which has for a time become a public holiday. For me it’s an annual pilgrimage. Yes, I have a deep respect for this team that departed too early. At the end of the Matignon and Oudinot Agreements, this team reflected the image of common destiny. With a Kanak at the head, two Caldoches (French NC inhabitants), two Metropolitans and two Canadians. They embodied not only modernity, but also efficiency, a certain expertise, even the hope of an articulated and well mastered tomorrow. Because the helicopter crash is an integral part of SMSP’s history.”

And Sarah concludes: “I take advantage of this opportunity to thank the mobilization of all actors, members of this committee, as well as our subsidiaries employees.”