27 May 2003

PNG plan evacuation of Cateret islanders

10:24 am on 27 May 2003

Papua New Guinea's Disaster and Emergency Management Office says a government decision on a long term plan for 2-thousand people reportedly starving on the Cateret islands near Bougainville is expected this week.

The managing director, Eric Ani, says cabinet is deliberating on a report prepared by the Bougainville provincial government outlining the conditions on the remote islands.

This comes as two Bougainville administrators are appealing to local businesses for food for the islanders.

Paul Tobasi and Franklyn Lacey say the Cateret islanders are surviving on the fish they catch because of their gardens being ruined by encroaching tides.

Mr Ani says the Cateret Islanders must be relocated to Bougainville but it will be difficult.

"The people have lived there all their lives so it will be difficult to bring them to the main island - the people are Polynesian, Bougainvillians on the main island are Melanesian. We will have to send a technical team to make an assessment of the island and perhaps to some awareness and advocacy to make the people aware that they must leave the place and go somewhere else."

Eric Ani.

The situation on the Cateret Islands has forced schools to close indefinitely because of the health problems of the children due to their poor diet.