The Nationl, Monday 10th September, 2012
By SALLY TIWARI in Buka
CARTERET Islanders in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville are still waiting to see the tangible use of funds allocated by the Somare government five years ago, Apiu Council of Elders chairman Bernard Tunim says.
At a meeting with representatives of an Alaskan community from the United States last Thursday, Tunim said the K2 million earmarked for the relocation of Carteret Islanders was given to the government of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
But, he said, they had not heard of where, how or when the money would be used.
The six atolls of the Carterets are sinking from rising sea levels, making them the first climate change refugees in the world.
Alaskans George Tom and Stanley Tom, from a village called Newtok, as well as Alaska immigration justice project director Robin Bronen, are in the autonomous region to share their experiences and knowledge with the Carteret Islanders on relocation.
Newtok is a village governed by the Newtok Traditional Council, one of the 229 federally-recognised indigenous tribes of Alaska.Stanley said their island was sinking because of increase in temperature, which had resulted in the thaw of the Arctic sea ice and permafrost.
Permafrost is the permanently frozen soil which acts like glue holding the land together.
Tunim thanked the Alaskans for choosing to visit the Carterets, saying their coming would encourage and motivate him to push harder on the relocation funding.
Tribal administrator Stanley said his village was losing an average of 22 metres of land per year.
“I am particularly interested to see what the PNG and ABG governments support is like towards the relocation of the Carterets,” he said.He said they had been dealing with the relocation issues for over 30 years and would like to give their input.He said their main aim was to see the Carteret Islanders relocated in the way they (Carterets) wanted and not according to any demand or pressure from authorities.
Bronen, who is a human rights attorney, said climate change affected many people in the world and it was important that human rights were protected when they were relocated.