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Written by Ranoba Baoa Wednesday, 15 December 2010 13:08
65 years ago, on the morning of 15th December 1945 a shipload of a suppressed passengers arrived on the shores of Rabi island. Oblivious to the weather conditions and what was ahead of them, the Banaban people of Kiribati were determined to start anew regardless of their circumstance.
Now 65 years on, the generations of those who arrived on Rabi island in Fiji commemorate this day as one of the most significant and life-changing anniversaries for them. The future of the 5,000 or so Banabans now living in Fiji and in their ancestral homeland, Banaba, are further challenged by current issues of climate change and food security.
At the Civic Centre auditiorium in the heart of Suva, some 200 Banabans living on the Peninsula of the Suva harbour and Nausori once again exchange their thoughts and for some who are still alive from that fateful day, go down memory lane.
Speaking in Rabi-Kiribati, Makin Karoro, who was 15 years old on that fateful day said they were taken aback by the vegetation and the newfound animals that did not exist on their beloved homeland.
Like many who are still alive, they remember that day as if it had only happened yesterday.
“We were extremely overwhelmed by what we saw. The weather coniditons, the vegetation, the animals and our surrounding took us by surprise,” she said.
She said that even more shocking was the temporary tents they saw erected instead of brick houses they were promised.
“Upon our preparations to get onboard the Triona we were told by the British government that the land that was recently bought by them had modern houses and was basically a little town itself.
“When we arrived ashore, instead of being greeted by the fancy cars and houses, we greeted by cows, wasps and so many other strange things that were not existent on Banaba,” she concluded.
However, as strange as everything may have seemed the Bananbans survived the months that followed. Despite being cheated of their rights to remain on their land and royalities from phosphate mining, the Banabans still have many things to be thankful for.
Though some of them lost their lives on those dreadful months and while at sea, the Bananban legacy and survival instincts still lives on to this day forth.
15 December Committee member Aren Baoa said: “Every year the efforts of the committee members are never futile because the people are never disheartened to come together and celebrate the day that impacted our lives forever.”