Member of Parliament for Maewo, Ian Wilson, has offered his coconut plantation to Ambae evacuees on Maewo, sheltering from the eruption of Lombenben volcano, to use to produce copra to make a living.
He gave the offer while welcoming the 380 evacuees at Gambule School during a ceremony to also celebrate Constitution Day Thursday and meet the evacuees.
“My presence is not to be taken as somebody different or special but just like any of you who shares your every hurt at this time,” he said.
He assured the evacuees that the government has a response plan in place and will ensure relief assistance reaches them.
Reports on Maewo says the MP’s words and tone were so soothing the evacuees’ state of worry began lifting and they began to have hope for the future.
“Nature such as this volcanic eruption on your island happens for a reason to make us all relook at ourselves and refocus on our rich Melanesian value system of respecting and caring for our fellow man,” he added.
“Pentecost, Ambae and Maewo people have lived this value for over 3,000 years and this is why we have opened our homes to your our brothers and sisters from Ambae.”
MP Ian Wilson said to the families from Ambae that he had a plantation of coconuts and families from Ambae can use it to produce copra to make a living.
“I’m doing this because we don’t know when it might be the turn of Ambae or Pentecost to provide shelter to me and my people.”
He congratulated the Maewo Response Management Team including the health service and the schools for their work in coordinating and welcome of the evacuees and settling them with families in the villages of Sungadia and Sungadaha ward councils of north Maewo.
“I don’t (know) when the people of Maewo and Ambae will celebrate the country’s Constitution Day and the Teachers Day together as the two are extremely important because the Constitution gave birth the Vanuatu, the nation and the teachers help teach respect to the future generations.
The chairman of MRMT, Chief Rasa Ure, began the ceremony welcoming the families from Ambae and encouraging them and there was no dry eye among them.
He said the people of Ambae were originally from Maewo and because of a major fighting Tagaro took the people of Ambae.
“In Maewo language, Ambae is called “Tavediri”, meaning a place of fire and the fire has been there from long ago. Now due to this fire, the people are returning home.”
Chief Rasa Ure said he was sorry to hear of the families at Santo who were still facing difficulties with places to sleep and relief assistance.
“Should any of you wish to come to Maewo because they are still facing challenges at Santo, you are free to come,” he made a call to the evacuees still facing difficulties at Santo.
Pastor Keith Mala, a leader of the evacuees responded on their behalf with tears in his eyes and admitting that the truth about the history of the three islands was revealed that day.
He said Ambae is an island where the respect installed by Tagaro has gone and the “fire of the volcano” is a message to the Ambae families to return to respect for one another.
Pastor Mala appealed to MP Wilson and Penama MPs to work together with the government and rebuild the image and integrity of Ambae island so damaged by pictures seen in the country and worldwide of the erupting volcano and the mass evacuation of the whole island and to rebuild the economy of the island damaged by the state of emergency.
“When we return, material losses we can regain, but the integrity of the island is something we will need assistance with to regain,” he added.
After the speech, everyone joined in a feast that included beef from a cattle provided by the Maewo MP. Entertainment was provided by Saledoro bamboo band of Talisew village.
MRMT Coordinator Ezekile Boelum says the next day Friday morning they started settling the evacuees according to their villages and nakamals.
“The evacuees have started returning home to Kerepei, Gaiogwo, Naone, Navenevene, Marino and finally Naumu’umu.”
Registration of the evacuees showed that of the 380 people there are 54 children 0-5 years, 112 in 6-20years, 164 in ages 21-50years and 50 people 51 years and over. The total number of females is 150 and the total number of males is 230 – 380 evacuees altogether.
Meanwhile, Boelum says a similar ceremony is being planned to welcome those Ambae families in the southern villages of Nasawa, Narovorovo and Talise.