Solidarity with Carteret and Manam Islanders
Statement of the CARITAS PNG presented at the Panel Discussion on 22nd March 2019
We the Caritas Diocesan Development Secretaries of the Commission Caritas Papua New Guinea of the Catholic Bishops Conference of PNG and Solomon Islands, stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the Carteret Islands from the Diocese of Bougainville and Manam Care Centre of the Archdiocese of Madang.
We would like to voice our concerns on a number of life-threatening issues affecting more than 2000 people on the atolls of Carteret Island.
Firstly, the lack of support from the Autonomous Region of Bougainville Government and Papua New Guinea to fund the relocation plans negotiated since 2006. We cannot continue to ignore the risks families face daily. Food is scarce as tides frequent the shores and the inland of the island, destroying staple food crops such as banana, swamp taro, fruit trees and vegetables. Since the 1970s families have been surviving mainly on coconut and fish. With the small support of 8 families who had relocated to Tinputz District in 2006, rations of garden food have been transported to feed the remaining families on the island. However, this is not practical with the high cost of fuel and irregular harvests. Although the administration of AROB promised to do quarter food relief this has not been a reliable promise kept. More than 200 students on the islands are not attending regular classes due to food concerns and inability of the community to retain quality teachers to serve the island communities.
The Diocese of Bougainville responded and allocated 300 hectares of Land to settle Carteret Islanders. With support from the international community, 8 semi-permanent houses were built and accommodated 8 families whilst two houses remain incomplete. No one is following up on this issue to ensure the relocation plan is successful. Hence, we call upon the Government of Bougainville to remain true to its promise and support Carteret Islanders with the following;
· Classrooms for more than 200 students to be built in Tinputz
· Shelter – building materials for families who will relocate
· Transport support to ensure families are relocated
· Food ration and clean water start up ration in the months leading to relocation
· Partnership with Church to provide Socio – Psycho Support for loss of cultural identity, land etc.
Our second concern is for the Manam people who remain displaced and unaccompanied since 1996. There are now an estimated population of 22,000 people from both the Care Centre at Manam and Manam Islands migrants. The proposed relocation sites for Manam people has not been supported with easy access of road, transport, accommodation and initial food support since 1996 when negotiations between the National Government and Provincial Government of Madang took effect. The Manam people were temporarily relocated to Bogia District however, this remains a very big challenge for families to adapt to a normal life. Land shortage leading to ethnic clashes, high school dropout, lack of income and food shortage remains a daily struggle. We would like to know and now call upon the State to investigate the Manam Development Authority set to speed up the process of resettlement. It is long overdue and can no longer wait. We plea with the Government of PNG not to exploit the situation and ensure the budgets allocated for Manam Development Authority is managed well with key development partners in the Province of Madang to ensure the following relocation needs are met:
1. Road access to the proposed sites
2. Housing material build up
3. Repatriation – transport, food relief
4. Socio – Psych support for grief and coping to loss of identity etc.
5. Upgrade of medical and school facilities nearby that will cater for the new population in the District concerned.