WHILE it is reassuring that lessons learnt from volcanic eruptions at Rabaul and Manam do not want to be repeated in terms of resettlement, the plight of the Manam Islanders still hangs in the air.
Last week, Yangoru-Saussia MP and National Planning and Monitoring Minister Richard Maru said East Sepik MPs do not want the Kadovar Islanders to experience what is now happening with the Manam Islanders where people are still living in care centres at Bogia, many years after the volcanic eruptions because of political infighting.
Manam is a basaltic stratovolcano 12km north of Papua New Guinea.
Its first known eruption was in 1616. Since then, Manam has erupted at least 30 times.
The volcano has been very active in the 20th century with 23 eruptions. In November 2004, a major eruption forced the emergency evacuation of over 9000 inhabitants of the island.
Life at the care centres has not been easy for the families with most citing food shortage and ethnic clashes with the mainlanders forcing them to move back to the island.
For Kadovar, 533 out of 691 islanders were relocated to the mainland following the volcanic activities on the island on Jan 5 and are now living at the care centre at Dandan in Turubu.
Local MP and Inter-Government Relations Minister Kevin Isifu is expected to prepare a Kadovar Restoration Bill to be tabled in Parliament when it sits next week.
The bill is to allow for the establishment of the required restoration authority whose primary function would be to:
- Identify and acquire land for the resettlement of displaced islanders, including to negotiate with landowners;
- provide services and infrastructure for the resettlement area;
- provide for care centres and associated services, such as health care, education, food and safe water supply;
- liaise with donors and international organisations to ensure services to displaced persons are properly co-ordinated and satisfy generally acceptable international standards; and,
- Ensure human rights of displaced persons and the members of the host communities are protected.
We support the call from Peter Muriki, the former secretary of Manam Council of Chiefs, to Isifu to implement the long delayed Manam Resettlement Authority Act.
The act was passed by Parliament in 2006 but since then the board of directors and the management have not been appointed.
This is not the time of procrastinating appointments because of difference of opinion.
Lives of people are at stake – women and children have been made to suffer because leaders tasked to work together have their own interest.
In many areas, natural disasters, conflict, violence and development projects often coincide to create an environment conducive to displacement.
Why is it not happening for the Manam Islanders living at Bogia?
The prolonged displacement has seen a deterioration of living conditions, with the displaced increasingly left on their own to meet their basic needs and sustain themselves.
Tension with people from Bogia has erupted into conflict over land and resources, putting the lives of the islanders at risk of violence and sometimes secondary displacement.
The hopes of Manam Islanders living at Bogia for an end to their concern now rest on Isifu’s assurance that he will address their resettlement issues this year.
The ongoing 14-year Manam issue must be settled this year.