By MALUM NALU
Displaced Manam islanders will be left to fend for themselves for the seventh year in 2011 despite K15 million approved by the national executive council last year to help resettle them, according to a well-placed government official attached to the Manam resettlement taskforce and National Disaster Committee.
The source said this was because the government could not make a firm commitment as to what the national executive council wanted and what its medium-term development plan (MTDP) under the department of national planning and monitoring supported.
The MTDP highlights quite clearly that “vulnerable and disadvantaged people will have the support they require from the government, service providers and the general public for meeting their right to a minimum standard of living”.
The source said last year, the NEC approved K15m to help resettle Manam islanders over a five-year period; however, this seemed to have gone unheeded by national planning and monitoring.
“Clearly, the Manam issue should no longer be treated as a disaster-related matter but a development issue because the state is now working towards the resettling of more than 15,000 persons and it is dealing with the rebuilding of people’s livelihoods,” the source said.
He said that early last year, when tensions flared up between Bogia landowners and displaced Manams because of over-crowdedness and other social problems, NEC intervened by setting up a task force.
He said the NEC directed that the K15m be to:
- Assist the national government to identify suitable resettlement land;
- Liaise with various leaseholders as well as traditional landowners; and
- Purchase suitable land for the permanent resettlement of Manams.
“During the course of establishing the Manam task force, a draft resettlement plan was then completed and circulated to selected agencies and donours for their immediate feedback,” the source said.
“A field visit followed and this was sponsored by the United Nations Development Program, National Disaster Office and the Office of the Centre for Humanitarian Refugees.
“After the field visit to one of the main Manam care centres, adequate feedback to finalise the document was made and that actually progressed the resettlement plan to a public investment programme (PIP) at K15m over a five-year period
“A PIP submission was then forwarded to the department of national planning and monitoring by the team leader of the task force and acting chief secretary, Manasupe Zurenuoc.
“If the PIP had been approved, then more interested donours like AusAID, World Bank, UNP and others who showed interest would have been invited to participate through counterpart funding or technical assistance,”
The source added: “How long will the Manam people be allowed to suffer because of some bad policy and budget decisions?
“Obviously, one would say that not too many consultations had been carried out by department of national planning and monitoring on the Manam resettlement issue, because the MTDP clearly reflects the issues relevant to Manam, and yet, it is not captured at all in the 2011 development budget.”
Meanwhile, former politician and Madang businessman Sir Peter Barter, who has helped the Manam people for 45 years through seven volcanic eruptions, said the whole sad saga would never have happened not it not been for a litany of inept politicians and ineffective public servants.
“I’m disgusted, absolutely disgusted,” he said.
“I strongly believe that the Manam people have been abused by the government.
“The whole thing is absolutely disgraceful.
“There are problems all over the place.
“It’s a breach of human rights.
“Very soon, the United Nations Human Rights Commission will bring it up in
“It’s aggravated by people who will not help.
“I suggest that the prime minister (Sir Michael Somare) go and sit down with the Manam islanders and the landowners.
“It’s a story which should never have been necessary to tell.
“It should have been resolved six years ago.”