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Back to the Future for Banaban Elders

Theresa Ralogaivau FIJI TIMES ONLINE Saturday, July 03, 2010

L-R: Rabi Council Chairman - Dr Paulo Vanualailai, Banaba Rehabilitation Co-ordinator - Peter Crowley, Kiribati High Commissioner to Fiji - Reteta Rimon, Banaba Rehabilitation member - Ken Sigrah meeting in Suva to discuss Banaban plans to rehabilitate and restore the homeland - Banaba, previously known as Ocean Island.

THEY were forced off Ocean Island for a strange land in Fiji and now elders from Rabi Island in Cakaudrove have petitioned their island council to send them back to their homeland.

About 10 elders who boarded the Triona that arrived in Rabi on December 15, 1945 have asked the island council to take them back to Ocean Island or Banaba by December.

Council chairman Dr Paulo Vanualailai said the elders made him promise that he would take them back. "They put in a special request for them to die on Ocean Island so we are taking them back around Christmas," he said.

"They were born there, spent most of their childhood there, had good memories there and identify with their homeland.

"This is quite an emotional issue, a sad issue. When they first left Banaba, phosphate mining hadn't devastated the island to the state it is now." Dr Vanualailai said measures would be taken to make homes for the elders on Ocean Island.

"All the houses have asbestos roofs which is unhealthy so we need to prepare them places to stay and also allocate an allowance that they can survive on," he said.

All the elders are aged 80 and above. There are about 300 people that live on Ocean Island.

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Comment by Charles Enoka KIATA on July 4, 2010 at 7:55pm
We always feel for our respected elders and peoples of Banaba and we believe in the constitution that restore and respect our human rights, moral & cultural values and identities. We urge present government of today and those (countries) involved during the mining era to rebuild and restore life on Banaba . A devastated island state of Banaba needs rehabilitation work for the peoples, growing children and future of Banabans.
Comment by Stacey King on July 3, 2010 at 5:43pm
Banaban Elders living in Fiji are planning to go back to their devastated Island - Banaba (Ocean Island) by the end of the year to spend their final days back on their homeland. Banaban Elders say they will die in peace watching their children working on the rehabilitation project planned to restore their beloved island. This has been their dream since being forcibly removed by Japanese forces during World War II and then moved by the British government to Rabi Island in Fiji in December 1945. Now 65 years later after one of the worst environmental disasters they will return home.

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