BY GEORGINA KEKEA
A resettlement policy is the way to go when dealing with relocation of people. This sentiment was shared by Dr Tammy Tabe, a third generation of the Gilbertese people in Wagina, Choiseul province.
During the recent draft resettlement policy workshop held by Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey, Ms Tabe was one of the speakers and academics that contributed to the development of a national policy.
Tabe says as a descendant of migrants, she knows and understands the challenges her people are faced with. She said this national policy will safeguard the future generation.
In her presentation, Tabe says resettlement issues are both man made and of natural causes.
She made reference to the people of Gilbert Islands as a case study for the resettlement policy. She said migration can also happen domestically and government need to prepare itself.
She said growing up she had heard stories from her grandparents about their migration and what it meant to them.
She said imagine leaving the place you know all your life to go to somewhere unknown and unheard of. That’s what her family went through when they came to the Solomon Islands.
‘Some went to Gizo and our family came to Wagina,” she said.
She said, based on the experiences her people had gone through, a national policy for resettlement is a must.
Solomon Islanders living in low lying atolls are at risk of sea level rise and losing their home because of climate change, thus a national policy must safeguard them if/when they have to leave their home island to relocate elsewhere.
“Land is always an issue here in Solomon Islands and this National Policy must consider the ownership of land and how government can go about acquiring land for relocation purposes,” Tabe said.
The Gilbertese re-settlement scheme was undertaken by the British Government in the 1950s.
This was made possible, because at that time, the British Solomon Islands Protectorate and the Gilbert islands were administered by Britain’s Western Pacific High Commission.
Due to poor soils and low rainfall that had caused famines, the British Government through the Western Pacific High Commission decided to relocate the people of Gilbert Islands to the Solomon Islands.
“The only problem for us then was we didn’t think much about the ownership of the place in which we were relocated to.
“We heard that our grandparents were shown the place which we now call home as ours and were led to believe that we own the land.
“However, the ownership of the land is in question and we are in doubt of the land ownership because there was nothing in the records to show that we own the land,” Tabe said.
She said Solomon Islands must learn from the Gilbert Islands case and come up with a proper resettlement policy.
Tabe is a Lecturer at the University of the South Pacific (USP), Laucala Campus.
Previously while studying at the USP she had decided to explore the relocation history of her people where she provided a comprehensive account and analysis of this forced relocation.
She had hoped her research will contribute significantly towards policy-making and governing for Pacific Island states that are being affected by climate change and whose people may become subject to future relocation.