Human rights defenders welcome PM’s announcement

March 18, 2024 5:30 am

Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka.

The human rights defenders have welcomed Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka’s announcement of reviews of the Banaban Settlement Act and Rabi municipal elections.

However, these defenders remain concerned about extractive mining interests from Australia-registered companies.

The Pacific Climate Warriors join the Banaban Human Rights Defenders Network in welcoming the commitment to good governance and community empowerment, emphasizing the critical need for immediate action regarding the Banaban community’s rights and representation.

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Given the Banaban people’s tumultuous history with colonial extraction and destructive mining impacts, clear governance structures are crucial to ensure their needs are placed above the interests of prospective mining companies. Pacific Council Elder and Banaban Human Rights Defender, Itinterunga Rae Bainteiti says they encourage the Fiji government to promptly announce the election date, allocate the necessary budget, consult widely amongst Banaban communities, and collaborate closely with the villages, elders and diverse groups on Rabi.

Bainteiti says it is essential that a review of the Banaban Settlement Act and council elections be done in tandem, as any further delay undermines democratic processes that have been absent for over a decade.

He adds that given Australia, New Zealand, and the UK’s historical involvement in the mining and pollution of Banaba, and the displacement of Indigenous Banabans to Fiji, they urge the Fiji Government to engage in collaborative efforts with the former colonial nations.

Bainteiti says this collaboration should be done to support funding the review, elections and other consultations and to steer their communities towards more resilient, just and sustainable futures.