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RCL Chairman's Rehabilitation Update: Mining of Coral Pinnacle on Banaba (Ocean Island) for infrastructural upgrading

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

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Comment by Rusiate.Jiope.Bubu on February 11, 2011 at 2:22pm

Mauri my fellow Banaban families and Honourable RCL Chairman,

I am so glad to find this issue just about the suggested month which is March this year. Mangke!!! what an isolated fam??? Yeah, what I would like to state here is my confusion as a Banaban. I do not understand the real and the main purpose of this mission to me as an exploited and deployed habitant of this memorable Island-Banaba.  Of cause I did not but our beloved ancestors. I may sound similar to my previous commentators but I think I am withdrawing my questions independently. So my question is: What is my short and long term benefits from this mission/strategy, my unemployed families and my island as a whole during and at the end of this rehabilitation mission and the coming days?  Yeah, after working in Banaba for 09 months, I found that it needs a strong hearted habitant to inhabit it and so as a leader to prove the way. I understood brother Chairman's view and opinion towards KG's needs of infrastructure and so as my commentators-yet my confusion will assist me with my families to restate on this in the near future for the benefits of our loving people-Banabans. Would I be assisted with my interrogation here???

Thanks and Good Days.

Comment by Sarah on November 4, 2010 at 8:48pm
I totally agree with Takesau, i think the Banaba rehabilitation program has been rushed without proper analysis by our Chairman. Has Cost - Benefit Analysis been conducted on the rehabilitation program, so Banabans are clearly informed and aware of the benefits and costs to make proper informed decisions. The way things are progressing with the current rehabilitation program, is markings of history repeating it self, whereby, people are not properly informed and the wishes of the people are totally ignored. Remember Banaba and Bananbans were exploited environmentally, socially, culturally etc. Do we want to repeat the same mistakes our elders did for the sake of $$$$$$. Banabans are survivors, we have survived the annihilation of WWII, exploitation from colonial powers and relocation to a new homeland. So i think we should reassess our strategy in regards to rehabilitation of Banaba, not to jump the gun for the sake of $$$$ which have been our downfall in the past.

A suggestion is to have proper cost - benefit analysis, there are so many rehabilitation techniques that could be employed and have not been fully employed which are necessary for the rehabilitation program. As mentioned a CB analysis, Multi-Criteria Analysis are just a few techniques to gauge the best possible economic approach to rehabilitation that will benefit the whole Banaban community, in the long run. We have to get away from short term benefits if we truly care for our future generations. Chairman and the rehabilitation team might be surprise to identify a few approaches that will not further degrade Banaba, our HOMELAND.

I hope all concerns of the Banabans are taken on board.

May god Bless the Banaban race.

Comment by Takesau Tabore on November 4, 2010 at 1:45pm
I wish to thank brother chairman for the positive move in trying to establish dialouge with the KG on all fronts be it political, social or economical. I support the initiative whole-heartedly as it is the only way forward. However, i just want to point out that b4 we jump to any form of agreement be it at RCL-KG level or whatever that a careful and thorough assessment be implemented and all stakeholder views be taken. On this issue of selling pinnacles to the KG I stand beside our elders wishes . Be it 4million or 400million, I as a landowner do not wish to sell an ounce---period!!!! From my view point its more like RE-EXPLOITATION rather than re-habilitation. At the first instance, the pinnacles could help cover the ugly looking pits or make an airfield which is the most urgent of any form of development. To make my point clear an uncle died due to an accident and no mercy- flight could be made from Tarawa . He died a slow agonizing death and not to mention the occasional prenatal trips made by our women to deliver on Tarawa and those who are unfortunate to board the unreliable boat trips take the risk of using the traditional mid-wife. I hope RCL is not looking at making a quick buck from the so called development but rather look at the long term implications of any such deals. If the colonizers interest in Banaban bird-shit could leave Banaba in ruin what would the new interest in Banaban pinnacles leave??? Don't get me wrong- I'm all for talks with the KG but my piece of advise is TREAD VERY CAREFULLY and look at both sides of the coin. Only when RCL and all stakeholders are satisfied that it's a risk worth taking then no problems go ahead. Happy Diwali to all and God bless!


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