Rabi Island ‘defenders’ network challenges Fiji official’s visitor ban

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Life on Rabi
Life on Rabi . . . a still from the 2018 Asia Pacific Report photo gallery on Rabi Island. Image: Blessen Tom/APR

By Don Wiseman, RNZ Pacific senior journalist

An unelected official in Fiji is demanding that visitors to Rabi lsland seek his approval before travelling there.

Rabi Administrator Iakoba Karutake has issued a policy statement saying non-Banabans visiting the island must register with local police.

He said those planning to consult or organise meetings with the Banaban community will not be allowed on the island without permission from him.

This comes as the Banaban Human Rights Defenders Network has called on the Fiji government to investigate human rights violations on Rabi.

Rabi became home for Banaban Islanders after the destruction of Banaba due to phosphate mining by the colonial powers.

Iakoba Karutake
Rabi Administrator Iakoba Karutake . . . islanders’ human rights network concerned over “authoritarian control”. Image: RNZ Pacific/Fiji Sun

The network has expressed its concern at the authoritarian control Karutake is assuming.

The former FijiFirst government of Voreqe Bainimarama replaced the Rabi Council of Leaders in 2013 with a temporary administrator and the network wants the council re-instated.

No consultation claim
“A spokesperson with the group, Rae Bainteiti, said Karutake had acted without consulting the people.

Bainteiti said the administrator’s role only continued to exist because the Fiji government had neglected to hold elections for the Rabi Council of Leaders.

He also asked whether such a regulation was in conflict with the Fiji Constitution.

However, Karutake told RNZ Pacific that he had conducted community consultations and he believed the people of Rabi understood what he was trying to achieve.

He claimed people like Bainteiti were stirring people up but he wanted to maintain the calm.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

Rae Bainteiti
Banaban Human Rights Defenders Network spokesperson Rae Bainteiti . . . claims Karutake has acted without consulting the people. Image: RNZ Pacific / Kelvin Anthony
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