Banaba Landowners Ask Kiribati President To Abandon Development Plans

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Long exiled to Rabi in Fiji, dispute authority of Rabi Council of Leaders

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (The Kiribati Independent, May 31, 2012) – Banabans living in Rabi, Fiji islands have written a letter to President Anote Tong asking him to abandon any proposed plans for Banaba.

The landowners said the Rabi Council of Leaders, who are in Kiribati holding talks with government ministries regarding their rehabilitation programmes, have not consulted with the landowners. Banaba, known as Ocean Island, is home to just one hundred people.

It was once mined for many decades by the British, Kiribati and the Banabans received royalties. Kiribati Independent has obtained copies of two letters; one was dated on the 6th of May 2012 and the other one was dated 2006. In the latest letter the landowners reaffirmed their position on Banaba as their home country because they are the rightful owners.

"The Rabi Council of Leaders has no right over our lands in Banaba," they said. In his letter dated 2006, Kiribati’s Attorney-General Titabu Tabane interpreted section 119(2) of the Kiribati Constitution. He made it very clear in his letter at that time that Banaba had been returned to the landowners by the Republic of Kiribati, not to the Rabi Council of Leaders.

The landowners asked government and the council to observe and respect the Constitution. Kiribati Independent understands that this is a major blow and embarrassment to RCL and their leaders who are currently in Tarawa holding talks with government ministries regarding their wish lists for Banaba.

It is the Banaba Rehabilitation Program. And according to Marlie Roota, Executive Director of RCL, the main objective of this project is to remove harmful and hazardous materials from the island, and to try and rehabilitate it so it becomes a livable and beautiful island.

Marlie maintained that this project was discussed and planned many years ago. She added that they have held consultations with the landowners.

While Marlie told Kiribati Independent the project on Banaba island awaits the government’s greenlight, RCL has already invited bidders for the project. Casuki Project Management Limited won the tender. Despite some controversies and debates regarding the current plan for Banaba, some Banabans in Tarawa have expressed their support for the project.

The Kiribati Independent Copyright© 2012 The Kiribati Independent. All Rights Reserved

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