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Dear Fellow Banabans,
Greetings to you all, yes I guess things are moving at a very fast pace that I need to update all of you in regard our meeting with the Kiribati Government.
From the onset, RCL in 2009 clearly defined its April Meeting a resolution to rehabilitate Ocean Island. The resolution passed seeks the majority mandate of the Banaban people from all of the four villages in Rabi for their referendum to approve the rehabilitation programme, a project proposal that was floated way back by the previous RCL administration to begin the rehab work. Approvals was given to RCL and a majority of the Banaban people in the four villages gave their go-ahead to begin the project. Also included are those in Tarawa and Ocean Island. As for our Suva members, my apology RCL has still yet to get its support on the referendum. Sorry it was just the benefit of doubt that I tend to think the Suva Team would be on my side on this, which is a mistake considering the differences of thoughts between the concept Compensation vrs Rehabilitation, but I am preparing a conducive time for RCL to present the rehabilitation programme. I did however requested Peter to have an audience with the Suva Team on the Rehabilitation. I guess only a few showed up on that day at Banaba House.
I also did mentioned this to the Suva team members through my e-mails the engagement of Peter Crowley as our Advisor for Rehabilitation. Peter Crowley is the current economic advisor for Nauru on Rehabilitation Programme and RCL feel that his engagement is a plus to the Banaban people because of his technical background and experience with the Nauru Government. Submissions of RCL's project overview to the KG was made in 2008 and again in 2009 during my term.
Whilst we await the full project paper to be presented to RCL by Peter, the KG has taken a step further by taking up the coral pinnacle extraction and minning as part of the costing to begin the rehab work since RCL do not have money to begin such ambitious programme.
KG has shown its interest in secuiring external funding to upgrade its roading and airtrip infrastructure and they have been given three sources of aggregates namely Nauru, Fiji and Banaba. The meeting held at the KG High Commission office in Suva was the request by the KG to begin a negotiation btwn the RCL on behalf of the Banaban Landowners to expediate one part of the rehabilitation project plan, which is coral pinacle extraction. KG has reiterated its interest in buying this coral pinnacle from Ocean island and the first round of talks between KG and RCL got underway last Thursday 14/10/10. In the meeting the RCL received a draft document outlininig the project proposal details, which includes the financials.
In brief, it contains the following:
1-They need 100,000tonnes of coral pinnacles for upgrading of South Tarawa Road and Internal Airport at Bonriki.
2-The cost is around AUD3-4m for aggregates only
3-The machinery will be sourced from external funding, in the tune of AUD1.3m
4-Implementing agencies include three options and RCL has opted for second option, where a Banaban Landowners Rehabilitation Company Ltd will be given the task of Supervisory & Monitoring Role on Ocean Island, but the KG-Ministry of Marine Resources, will co-ordinate and implement the work during extraction. Mentioned here too is the recruitment of landowners as labourers.
5-RCL has defined 5points of clarification on the documents and have given its views and opions on a win-win situation
6-The total amount of coral pinacle on Ocean Island is 40million tonnes, so the 100k/tonnes is what is needed
7-Projects that will be upgraded on Ocean Island include improvement to shipping and mooring facilites, roading on the island and a new airstrip.
8-Time for this will be March 2011 to kick start every thing.
9-RCL has also requested a full feasibility study specifically to the area demarcated for coral pinnacles so that natural caves and water aquifers are not damaged. KG has agreed to this as well.
10-The present KG has also indicated its interest to continue with the buying of coral pinnacles for upgrading and improvement of its infrastructures apart from the roads and airstrip.
11. Another interest the KG has conveyed is the support to the entire rehabilitation programme in the future
This is my view on the above!!
This is the age of negotation and dialogue and in our era, we the Banabans have to move one step up to clear the air of suspiciousness and negativity. I firmly believe the fight is not between us and our Kiribati cousins. The Battle is out there between us and those whom have made us this way. The power that has uprooted the Banabans from their homeland and those that are party to it.
KG has opened its doors of negotiation and goodwill to the banabans, it is time we face up to the challenge and to believe in the power of negotiation and dialogue. If we fail in this, we will always fail no matter how philosophical and intelligent we are. We are no longer an island, we are part of larger pacific community and we are to mould our thoughts and ideas towards that, but as long we do not lose our integrity and spirit as a group of people under one voice, one thought and one mind.
I take this as a door of opportunity and as a Chairman, my mandate is to lead the Banabans to the things I believe are true and Godly. If I fail then I no longer fit to be that leader but if I know that what I am doing will best benefit our people, morally, socially, politically and economically I will do it no matter the consequence.
Kam batin raba
Dr Paulo Vanualailai
Rabi Council of Leaders
16 October 2011