“I am challenging all degree and master’s degree holders and intellectuals of Ambae to speak up for their rights over their island to let the Government know that there are somethings that it can do and there are other things that it cannot do.
Paramount Chief John Tarilama says his latest concern regards the island’s most prominent St. Patrick’s College.
The College is located in the island’s safe zone. The Government should not relocate the entre institution as it is going to be far too costly. “I suggest the Government should transfer Years 12 and 13 students to Luganville for their final examinations but the rest of the school should remain”, he says.
“If the whole school goes to Santo, it will cost an astronomical amount more, with new classrooms and dormitories staff houses to be built”. he says.
At present the biggest challenge at the College is food and water but otherwise all classrooms, dormitories and staff houses remain standing. “Now island cabbages are growing and people have started harvesting their greens again. The Manaro ash fall is a blessing in disguise because our island is now super fertile!”, he adds.
“Millions of aid fund pouring in to help my people should be used to promote developments in the safe zones of the island because Ambae deserves to be develope”.
As far as he is concerned, the island’s calamity is well timed to let the island’s educated elite direct the Government how to deal with their challange.
“In fact the College has a safe underground water source on the valley floor where the windmill used to be back in the 1960s-1970s. The school used to have more than enough water and even the farm on the way to the stadium had more than enough water for the cattle and dairy farm. The windmill had broken down but the water source is still there. The Government should develop this water source”, he suggests.
Otherwise he fears the money that is allocated to assist Ambaeans would be used to develop the other islands where his people are going to go, while Ambae remains buried by ash. “The latest disaster recovery fund should be used to help Ambaeans learn to live with their volcanic challenge in the same way that the people of Tanna and Ambrym have come to adapt to their situations”, he adds.
The Chief disagrees with the offer to adopt his people into families on other islands explaining, “Mixing cultures risk threatening my people’s survival as a people because our way of life is based on respect for your fellow man especially if he or she is a ‘tawian’.
“My people show heavy respect for him or her while the ‘tawian’ from another island may walk straight into the kitchen and help himself or herself to food without a care in the world. This one example of my fear as I have seen it happen”.