Ursola Rakova, executive director of the Tulele Peisa, has called for action on global climate change as her native Carteret Islands are gradually reclaimed by the ocean.
Rakova, who hails from the Han islet, is the executive director of Tulele Peisa, a non-government organisation initiated by the Carterets Council of Elders to address ever-worsening challenges of global warming, including the need to resettle residents of the islands.
“The Pope’s message to the world, not just to us Catholics but to the world, emphasises the preservation of Mother Earth,” Ms Rakova told Rowena Orejana at the NZ Catholic newspaper.
“As custodians of Mother Earth, we all have a part to play in protecting this earth.
“If we look at people who will be displaced, these people should be at the centre of humanitarian support.”
For over half a century there have been discussions about relocation, but in 2006 the people of the Carterets decided to take matters in their own hands by establishing Tulele Peisa, which translates from Halia as ‘sailing the waves on our own’.
“The Catholic Church of Bougainville recognised the situation back in 1963 and started to talk about relocating the people. This was reaffirmed in 2007,” Ms Rakova continued.
“We want to move people within the age group of 18 to 45. We feel that this is an active population and they will be able to sustain themselves on the sites given to us.”
In the 1980s there was an attempt to relocate people to Central Bougainville, but this was unsuccessful as the Carterets people could not settle in the area due to a lack of dialogue and support from the local people and the onset of the Bougainville Crisis.
In 2009 a relocation project began to move people from the atolls to land in Tinputz that had been owned by the Catholic Church of Bougainville.
“We are rehabilitating the plantations and giving each family one hectare of land to cultivate,” Rakova said.
“We also need to support people in keeping their identity; we are moving away, but not completely. We want to maintain cultural connectedness. We want to preserve that. We want to move with dignity. We are proud of our inheritance and we want to keep that.”