Banaban Voice

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Plea from Rabi Chairman to Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Japan to help his people in the aftermath of Cyclone Tomas

Dear Stacy and Friends of the Banaban People.

Thanks for the update on what's happening in Rabi, yes I also managed to get a satellite phone contact from Ken and what a joy, I did phone Biniati and inform him that RCL has mandated the 4 Village committee and their Chairman’s' to carry out the distribution of the foodstuff fairly and squarely to the people affected. And I would like to applaud this government especially the Commissioner Northern for keeping his promise to deliver food on Wednesday to Rabi. I am very thankful, grateful and humbled to the Government of Fiji for the immediate response to our call in need.

I remember vividly when cyclone Ami struck Rabi in January 2003, it basically took almost three weeks for a meagre ration to arrive to Rabi, I believe it was the only one or two ration(s) of food that arrived on the island from the then Fiji Government. Apart from that, Fr Donal was perhaps the only figure that continuously provided help for the next 6months. I remember also other smaller organizations, individuals local and abroad and relief organizations if I can recalled. Apart from the above religious organizations and Banaban communities in Suva also had come to the rescue in their own ways.

Overall the efforts was not enough, as I could recalled many emails correspondences in your website stated how the Banabans suffered the socio-economic and political hardship of cyclone Ami aftermath impact on the island. One in particular is in regard of our young people leaving Rabi to look for income related activities to support their families in Rabi, as a result a lot of displaced people, especially the weak, the aged, single babies and their mothers, single parents and school children are left behind to face the brunt of the cyclone aftermath. Even I recalled that some of our aged people actually died of hunger and starvation due to lack of food.

This is a very humbling experience to our people, and one that I feel I cannot stand to see it happening again.

I am calling upon the Australian, New Zealand, British and the Japanese Governments to please come to our aid in this time of crisis. Enough have been said about our situation historically, enough words have been expressed to put across the message that our situation transcends the boundary of time and the political boundary of space. We are not only the forgotten people, but we are 'a displaced people'.

We have lost almost everything from language, culture, land and identify, our fusion into this modern life in a remote corner of Fiji, will ultimately draw us closer to the extinct on our cultural identify.

I take this opportunity in this time of crisis to voice our hearts; mind and soul to those people responsible for putting us on this foreign soil which have so far have brought us, apart from its positive elements, a sense of dissolution and hopelessness. It has basically taken away our essence of life which is embodied in the deep threads of our identity as a people, called the 'Banabans', for spiritual and cultural wealths are far greater than physical wealth.

Our destiny from the time, phosphate was found on our soil in 1900, has brought nothing but hurt, shame, helplessness, anger, pain and a vicarious suffering that will continue to haunt us and our future generations to come.

Despite this, we the Banabans are resilient and will not sit back to lament and drown in its sorrows, the Banabans will point to the stars, they will rise and stand up, and continue the walk of life that has been so painfully part of our generations since time immemorial.

I as Chairman of the Rabi Council of Leaders and as an elected Leader of my PEOPLE challenged and call on the good will and the spirit of fairness and accountability of the four superpowers of this modern world mentioned above to come and face us, and dance with us in these intricate complexities of life.

Our life was a simple one then, it should have remained so, but you have made complicated, please come and help us unwind the complexities we are facing so as to allay the fear of generational mockery, to put things into perspective those things that bring forth the TRUTH and to set my people and your conscious free from this spiritual bondage that has marked its signature into the Historical enclave of our lives.

I am in the view that assistance should not be on a spoon feeding mode, rather it should be on a revival and sustainable mode that sets off catalysts to roll out projects that incorporate self sufficiency and capacity building at the same time.

I have allocated in my 2010 budget to get our agriculture sector off the ground but do not have the capital to do that ASAP since we are into the planting season. These include the following:

- We have more than 400acres of fertile soil in Rakentai and RCL have earmarked this for taro and cocoa planting. We need about $F0.5m to kick start this project straight away, the yield after 7months will provide gross income of more than F$1.3m annually. This is a major scheme that would need close monitoring and control by RCL but one that is feasible and practicable to our farmers.

-Another major scheme on Rabi would be to set up a biodiesel plant worth $F0.4m consisting of a plant that can generate renewable energy source from the abundance of coconut oil on the island. This would solve our dependence on imported oils abroad and allow Rabi to enter into carbon trading competitive advantage with the Fiji government. It will also provide energy to schools, homes and transportation sector and would drastically reduce our blotted budget allocation for oils and fuels for 2010.

- I believe human resources is the most important resources from all other natural resources, I have a lot of young people and the Banaban generation is almost 70% or more representing our population are in the age groups of 18-25. Thus I need a budget of $F1.5m to get our children to higher education. RCL has been very supportive of educating our children on the island from pre-school to form 7level, it is the only school in Fiji which has the council subsidizing transportation and schools fees and pays the salary of more than 11 teachers who provided support to the otherwise limited teachers who are civil servants and paid by the Fiji govt.

You see we have never laid back and lament on our past, but we have moved forward with or without the help from outside, however I strongly urge and plead with the British, Australian, New Zealand and Japanese governments which has moral obligation to help our people, to please come to our aid in this moment in time, especially when we needed you guys the most.

My heart goes out for our people, and my soul will praise our GREAT GOD in the HEAVENS who in HIS own good time has allowed us an opportunity to once again cross each other’s path.

On the other note I do thank you for all the years you have been with us in your efforts to recognise our needs, whilst on Rabi, however I feel the time has come for you to take a closer look at us and think about the consequences of what has been done to us and compare to what you are doing or are going to do to us. If you feel that you have been offended, with my words, then I plead with you, please compare that with what you have done to our lives. For actions speaks louder than words, for it is by your actions and less words that have made us who we are today.


Dr. Bauro (Paulo)Vanualailai

Chairman of Rabi Council of Leaders

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