This is an open letter to the Government of Vanuatu from an Ambaean living on Maewo.
We have tried to express our concerns to the NDMO representatives on Maewo and Government officials and it appears to have no impact. No one listens to us as though we are nothing but slaves or people with no rights. I want to express the following points:
1. We Ambaeans living on Maewo do have our rights under the Constitution of Vanuatu and we do have our freedom guaranteed by the same constitution, so the government’s enforcement of the SOE to prevent us from returning to our island is inhumane and goes against all prevailing laws to allow for freedom of movement and right of access to our own land.
2. We are not slaves to be treated as such were we are constantly feed by rice and canned fish/ tuna. This has been going on for the last three months and we are starting to see signs of NCDs, people are getting sick and we definitely know that the long-term impact on our lives will be unbearable. Please stop this and allow us to return to our island to start consuming natural food.
3. We have our rights to proper accommodation. We have been living in tents for the last three months and do not sleep most nights when it rains. We had to stand up with our mats, including our children trying our best to keep dry as much as we can. Please God, help us. We are humans and our homes on Ambae are safe and for better that what we are experiencing here. Please government allow us to return to our home immediately, so we can start to sleep properly. Its taking a toll on our lives including our children.
4. The adoption system enforced by the government and the Maewo chiefs does not guarantee our protection, our properties and safety in future so we need to return to our own island immediately.
5. Every Ambaean living on Maewo is reflecting signs of depression. Clearly people are getting, worried and sick psychologically and no treatment of any sort is being given to the psychologically and mentally sick people. Please stop this psychological punishment and allow us to return to hour homes immediately. We are humans, we are not animals to be treated this way.
6. We have started burying our deaths on other islands which is totally against our custom. Please consider this fact and respect our custom. Sapos yufala ol ministers and government officials, yufala ol man Vanuatu mo yufala I respectem custom, them please respectem custom blo Ambae blo allowem mifala berem ol death blo mifala lo Island blo mifala. Hemi no fair blo yufala I mekem mifala olsem.
7. Manaro Volcano had not produced any casualty but the impact of SOE on the lives of Ambaeans had resulted in more deaths and the numbers of deaths keeps on increasing, coupling with the depressions experienced by the Ambaeans as a result of this SOE and the NCD caused by the unhealthy food supplied by the Government. Please stop this SOE and allow us to return to our homes immediately before the whole population is killed by depression and NCD.
8. We are running out of food on Maewo, we have to go back immediately. People are getting hungry and its creating more anger and hostility amongst our people and the government officials and it may not be long before we will start to get violent. This treatment is fuelling dislike of the current government amongst our people. Please allow us to return to our homes.
9. The value of life amongst our people has been so tarnished so badly by this treatment during this SOE that people are so depressed that life does not seem worth living anymore and if you continue to hold us in these camps, then you have to prepare for a civil unrest. The peaceful nature of Ambaeans are now turning into anger and hate.
10. We are requesting the human rights organisation, Australian Government, NZ government and all the Aid Donors to come and visit us and see for yourself how our Vanuatu government is treating us and how they have used your aid money.
11. Finally, we want to advise the government that the end of November is too far off. We need to return now for our own survival and if you want to maintain peace between us, the host communities and the government officials. PLEASE STOP THIS SOE IMMEDIATELY AND ALLOW US TO RETURN HOME.