(Gleaned from the pages of Pacific Magazine stories by Batiri Bataua)
May 2004 – The first lot of I-Kiribati sea women have been recruited to work on Norwegian Cruise Liners that travel from Honolulu to Tabuaeran Island in Kiribati to the U.S. mainland. The NCL agent in Kiribati reports 19 women have been recruited. One left in February and the remaining will board their ship in June. This is the first time for young women from Kiribati to work onboard cruise liners.
July 2004 – Kiribati’s President Anote Tong stated in an interview with Pacific Magazine, “We aren’t planning for the next 20 years; we’re just trying to survive.”
March 2005 — The commissioning of TV Kiribati was held recently at the studio and tower site at the center of South Tarawa, the capital. Permanent Secretary for Communication Tebwee Ietaake told a gathering that the initial work on the TV station began in 2003, when TV New Zealand was hired to carry out a feasibility study. “There were three overseas companies interested to start TV in Kiribati,” he says. TVNZ, a firm from Taiwan and Australian Powercom all bid on the government station. “Powercom won the tender because of its cheap $383,000 price, plus the fact that it can extend the signals to neighboring Maiana and Abaiang islands.” Ietaake says.
March 2005 — President Anote Tong and the leaders of the two main religious groups in the country, Bishop Paul Mea of the Roman Catholic Church and Baiteke Nabetari of the Kiribati Protestant Church, delivered a special New Year message to all I-Kiribati seamen working onboard foreign vessels urging them to avoid alcohol abuse because it has become the leading reason for their suspension and firing. South Pacific Marine Services, which provides employment for I-Kiribati seamen, say there were reports of seamen not attending work, fighting among themselves, causing damages and even assaulting their superior officers. It is estimated that seamen remit more than $2 million annually.
April 2005 — British soldiers are heading back to Kirimati Island, the capital of the Line and Phoenix Group, but this time with no weapons of mass destruction. Instead they’re showing up with vehicles and equipment to clean the mess created on the island in the 1950s when Britain used it for nuclear testing. Kiribati’s liaison for the project, Rubetaake Taburuea, says that once the clean up of old equipment and buildings is complete, the rubbish will be exported. The clean up operation is solely funded by the British Ministry of Defense.
April 2005 — I-Kiribati seamen working on foreign ships remit more than A$10 million (US$7 million) to their families in Kiribati, says Tearei Rauban, the assistant manager of South Pacific Marine Services in Tarawa. The $10 million is the average per annum recorded by the South Pacific Marine Services and the Bank of Kiribati. An estimated 1,100 seamen currently work abroad, although there are close to 2,000 trained seamen. Raubane adds, “SPMS doesn’t see an increase of I-Kiribati seamen working abroad. In fact, it’s the opposite. And why is this happening? Because an increasing number of our seamen are being fired from their jobs due to excess drinking and their inability to attend to their work.” But, despite this drawback, Raubane says that I-Kiribati seamen are still top of the list for foreign shipping companies.
May 2005 — The Kiribati Oil Company (KOIL) is building its own fuel depot in Betio, South Tarawa. At the same time it is negotiating the purchase of Mobil fuel tanks at Betio. KOIL is currently leasing tanks from Mobil because it does not have its own. KOIL officials say that building its own takn farm will help to kieep prices lower. KOIL is also preparing to renegotiate a fuel supply contract that has been in place since 1992 with Mobil.
June 2005 – Kiribati Parliament Speaker Etera Teangana led a delegation of eight legislators to Taiwan at the beginning of April to learn from the country’s development experience. During the trip, the delegation visited Taiwan’s legislature and President Chen Shui-bian. Kiribati established diplomatic ties with Taiwan in November 2003. (Graham Norris
June 2005 – Nearly 10 percent of I-Kiribati seamen have been dropped from the ranks of the Tarawa-based South Pacific Marine Service, which coordinates employment for I-Kiribati on foreign vessels. A total of 92 seamen were dropped by SPMS, mainly for alcohol, fighting and other work-related problems. “The seamen are no longer wanted by ship owners,” says Captain Andrew Heinzen, the SPMS manager. He points out that there’s been a big drop in I-Kiribati being recruited for overseas ship work despite the fact that the demand for seamen internationally remains strong.
September 2005 – A four-man South Korean government team visited Kiribati in July to investigate Korean fishermen having sex with young local girls when their ships come to port. Team member Kim Joeng-Man said their investigation involved why young I-Kiribati women offer themselves to the Korean fishermen. It’s reported that some of these young girls are being encouraged by their parents, because their daughters received with U.S. dollars, plenty of fish and sometimes luxury items such as VCRs.
October 2005 – The Kiribati government has approved licenses for 34 purse seiners from the Taiwan Deep Sea Tuna Boat Exporters Association to fish in Kiribati’s waters. As part of the deal, the 34 Taiwanese boats will each employ two I-Kiribati fishermen, offering a total of 68 new jobs.
October 2005 – Commissioner of Police Ioery Tokantetaake has signed the Code of Practice that empowers police to arrest people on the spot for ill-treating children and women. Female sergeant Titan Kabwata is heading a new unit, the Kiribati Police Family Assistance and Sexual Offenses. Tokantetaake says Kiribati is one of the first countries in the region to start this exercise.
November 2005 – Acting superintendent of the Marine Training Center Tamana Natanaera has told families of I-Kiribati seamen working on foreign ships to maintain contact with their sons and husbands and to be mindful of what they write to the seamen. Although I-Kiribati seamen provide major financial support to their families, he says many I-Kiribati seamen are sent back to Kiribati because of domestic problems at home.
November 2005 – Tarawa Motors, agent for Toyota in Kiribati, has introduced the new Hilux Vogo 4WD car. Chief Managing Director Joyce Greg says the company will soon have a big glass-windowed showroom and will no longer order secondhand cars, which has been the norm. She says there’s an increasing demand for new cars in Kiribati and people are going for the latest models despite high prices.
November 2005 – The women’s federations of Kiribati’s Roman Catholic and Protestant churches have joined forces to cater for demands of seashell handicrafts from New Zealand and Australia importers. A buyer from New Zealand visited Kiribati recently to find an agent. The women have now sold more than 1,000 seashell handicrafts and more orders are in place for Christmas.
If you would like to read a very humorous account of a young man’s experience living on Tarawa in 1997, read J. Maarten Troost’s book, The Sex Lives of Cannibals. Troost accompanied his wife, who took a job with a non-government organization to improve nutrition on the islands.