Manam Islanders file case

More than ten thousand displaced Manam Islanders have filed a human rights case in the National Court in Madang.

They are seeking enforcement of their constitutional rights and legal rights under the Constitution and the Manam Resettlement Authority Act 2016.

On Thursday 25 September, the Madang National Court issued directives to have Ken Fairweather, the chairman of the Manam Restoration Authority, summoned.

Principal Plaintiff, Bruce Sila and 10,813 others, filed the Human Rights case, seeking answers from the Manam Resettlement Authority and the Government on whether the Authority was doing its function in attending to the needs of the people of Manam. 

One of the main function of the Authority was to identify and acquire land for the permanent resettlement of the Manam Islanders on the mainland as the island was no longer conducive for habitation due to continuous volcanic eruption. 

According to the islanders, little to nothing has been done since the evacuation in 2004.

Deputy Public Solicitor Thomas Ilaisa Jnr from the Public Solicitors Office in Madang said this was a special case where the Public Solicitor, Leslie Mamu, has gone out to assist the people of Manam by personally visiting the three major Care Centres (Potsdam, Asarumba and Mangem) in Bogia, with a team of lawyers.

Neglect by government to adequately fund and establish the Manam Resettlement Authority to perform its function over 15 years has left Manam Islanders to fend for themselves and inevitably, fight for their own survival with Bogia landowners.

One of the relief the Manam Islanders are seeking is an enforcement of their Constitutional right under Section 51 of the Constitution.

The case has been adjourned to the 17th of October for the court to give further directions for the filing of affidavits for the Manam Islanders and State entities and then give a date for trial.

(Story and picture by Jemimah Sukbat – Divine Word University student)

Jemimah Sukbat