Is Kiribati really relocating? Really?

Mauri friends!

I have a confession to make.  For the last couple of months, I’ve had this niggling feeling at the back of my mind and I haven’t been able to shake it.  Had I forgotten to turn the stove off? Did I leave my wallet at home? Or was it that I had – god forbid – written a terribly constructed sentence?

Well I’m sure I’m guilty of that last one, but that’s not what is bothering me.  I knew it was something to do with my writing.  Something wasn’t sitting right.

So I had a think, looked back on many of my pieces and then I realised….

I have got no idea on what is going on with Kiribati at the moment!!
Sure, I write on Kiribati issues and discuss what I think is relevant for all Pacific countries, but perhaps I’ve been ignoring the great big canoe in the room.
The big question that in all honesty, I haven’t properly tackled is: Will Kiribati actually relocate due to climate change?

To be honest, I really don’t know.  How’s that for a writer that specialises on Kiribati?

Here’s what I do know:

  • I know that Kiribati people don’t want to leave their home.
  • I know that last month there was a king tide of 2.9 metres with the entire country sitting just 10cm above that tide.
  • I know that Anote Tong is pleading with developed countries to adjust their greenhouse gas emission policies.
  • I know that the Kiribati government have purchased land in Fiji that is apparently not for relocation (despite all media reporting that it is).
 Seawall 2
But will Kiribati move? I have got no idea. And you know what? It’s because even though I have searched and sifted through various reports and press releases, I don’t think the Anote Tong and his government have given a good enough answer for the Kiribati people.  They haven’t officially announced their plans for the land that has been bought with $9.6 million of Kiribati’ reserve money and that is not okay with me.

From all reports, the land on Vanua Levu is unhabitable, thick forest which currently is unable to be even used for farming and agricultural purposes.  Actually, apparently Solomon Islanders are still living on this ‘vacant’ land?

Anote Tong has re-enforced his position, saying that Vanua Levu will not be used to relocate the citizens of Kiribati.  So what is happening with this land right now?  If it’s not being prepared to farm and if other people call this place home, then what have they bought it for?

The Kiribati people have the right to demand an answer to the purchasing of this land.  It is not good enough to buy a block of land and then just let it sit there.  Plans for this land should have been announced.  I’m assuming Anote Tong had a plan figured out when he bought it. Or did he buy it for the media circus that comes with ‘drowning country buys land due to climate change’.

Ever since this land was purchased, Kiribati citizens have actually heard NOTHING.  Nothing! If this were any other country, we would have public reports released stating the immediate and long term plans for the land.  If they are planning to use Vanua Levu for farming, then we should have already seen this progress.  Employ Kiribati citizens to head over there and work on the land. By all means, with their decline in health Kiribati need more land to farm their own produce. Not having the money to do so is a ridiculous argument – because you don’t buy land of this size if you don’t also have the money to develop it. If they don’t have the money, then Anote Tong has just wasted $9.6 million of Kiribati funds.

They asked not to be named but I made contact with a senior member of the Kiribati opposition party and they admitted that they too have no idea what is going on with this land.  They are currently investigating this to bring up in parliament because they too feel as if they have been kept in the dark.

Kiribati really is at a crossroads right now with the threat of their country being literally washed away by rising sea levels.  The last thing they need is their government to use up the funds in their reserve and then not be transparent with what is happening with this land.

To all of my readers, I implore you to ask more questions as to what plans the government has for this land because right now the Kiribati people are not being treated fairly by their own government.  The government is for the people and they should be made held accountable for this spending of $9.6 million of Kiribati money.
Email your member of parliament. If you’re not on the islands, ask your family members and start having this conversation. Word spreads fast in Kiribati. We need to show Anote Tong that we’re not idiots.

Better yet, if you’ve heard anything, let me know so I can share with all my readers!

The longer Kiribati citizens are kept in the dark, the longer our country suffers.

Have you heard anything about the next steps for Vanua Levu?

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