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Kiribati's hope for land

Shalveen Chand
Friday, February 14, 2014

FIJI will accept some, if not all, Kiribati nationals should the island nation decide to move because of rising sea levels.

President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau made the comment at a State dinner hosted by his counterpart in Kiribati on Tuesday evening.

Ratu Epeli said if the sea level continued to rise as the result of the failure of the international community to tackle global warming, some or all of the people of Kiribati may have to come and live in Fiji.

"Fiji will not turn its back on its neighbours in their hour of need," Ratu Epeli said.

"We accepted the Banaban people when they were forced to leave Ocean Island because of the pressure of phosphate mining there. These people now live in Fiji but have their own seat in the parliament and if necessary, we will do it again.

"You have already purchased 6000 acres of land on Fiji's second biggest island, Vanua Levu, to ensure your food security as the sea encroaches on your arable land. What the future holds we cannot say.

"But I want to assure you that if all else fails, you have true friends in Fiji who will not let you down.

"Because only our size and topography, our mountainous interiors prevent us from suffering the same fate."

Ratu Epeli said Fiji had its share of problems associated with rising sea levels.

As a result of this, he said one village had been moved and a second would soon be relocated while a further 676 communities had been identified as facing a threat in some way, including 42 that would need to be moved in the next five to 10 years.

"I want to assure you that Fiji will stand shoulder to shoulder with you as you face this crisis, as well as in doing everything possible to try to avert it.

"In a worst-case scenario and if all else fails, you will not be refugees.

"You will be able to migrate with dignity. The spirit of the people of Kiribati will not be extinguished. It will live on somewhere else because a nation isn't only a physical place.

"A nation and the sense of belonging that comes with it, exists in the hearts and minds of its citizens wherever they may be."

Despite the purchase of the land on Vanua Levu, the Kiribati Government is yet to say when or if the move will happen.

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