Wednesday, 15 October 2008 8:21 PM

Artificial Islands: the twisted truth!

I wish to contribute to the debate on artificial islands of Lau Lagoon which was made by Bebean (who ever that may be) on October 15. This person's response to Detone's discussion dated 14th October in relation to an article written by Joanna Sireheti on artificial islands dated 17th September has some flaws, very subjective and is less than fair. It appears to be based on illogical reasoning and unsubstantiated assumptions. Also, it is very clear that this person Bebean lacks in-depth knowledge about the customary marine and land tenure arrangements from Lau to Ata'a. This is the geographical area in North Malaita where the artificial islands of Lau Lagoon are located.

First, people who live on artificial islands in the Lau Lagoon are not landless. As a person who is from Lau and who lives on an artificial island I must say that I have never come across any person or seen a person in the Lau Lagoon landless. Most of the people who live on artificial islands have rights (access, use, ownership) to either marine or land tenure in the area. They also have strong social network with people referred to by Bebean as "wane i tolo" who are either blood relatives, in laws and friends that reside on the mainland or neighboring coastal regions. Such social network is linked profoundly to the marine and land tenure in the area. The term "wane i tolo" and "wane i asi" are just labels. These terms do not dictate how people relate with each other and with the customary marine and land tenure.

Second, the people who live on artificial islands in the Lau Lagoon were originally from the mainland. So while they are referred today as "wane i asi" (man lo sea) they do have rights to land on the mainland. In recent times, some people who live on the artificial islands moved back to the mainland or neighbouring coastal regions, particularly to lands where they have rights to. In addition, these people who are referred to as "wane i asi" and considered as fishermen also do gardening on the mainland, in places where they either have secondary or primary rights. On that basis, it is quite narrow-minded for Bebean to be claiming that people who live on artificial islands in the Lau Lagoon are landless.

Third, people who live on artificial islands in the Lau Lagoon know their genealogy and their historical/ancestral background. It would be unthinkable to say that these people lack the that knowledge about who they are and the social structures that govern their lives. Maybe, the claim made by Bebean that "artificial island inhibitors in Lau do not know their ancestors" might be true to a certain degree for a young Lau person born and raised in Honiara and calls Honiara home. But for people who continue to live on the artificial islands in the Lau Lagoon such knowledge is important because it has a direct link to the customary marine and land tenure in the area. It is absurd for Bebean to be claiming otherwise.

Finally, many people who live on artificial islands from Tara'ana, Tauba, Kokoefou, Surikiki, Taluabu, Takwaiasi, Lafmasi, Foueda, Funafou, Adegege, Sulufou, Sau'a, Ferasubua, Fuaga and Fare have been there for many generations. This is where they call home. There are many reasons and stories about how the ancestors of these people built and settled on the artificial islands. Hence, it would be ridiculous to say that these people were forced to build artificial islands and settle on them due to population pressure or they were outcasts. It is also inaccurate and less than fair by any standard to claim that people who settled on the artificial islands in Lau Lagoon did so as a consequence of social misbehaviour. In fact, during the pre-contact era social misbehaviour in most cases warrant a death penalty as prescribed by the rules of custom.

In short, it is important for people such as Bebean, any news reporter or any person that wishes to write about artificial islands in Lau Lagoon and people's livelihood in the area to do so in a manner that is right, accurate and fair. Making comments or assumptions on a public domain about a place and its people with very limited understanding and knowledge is like trying to 'tread where angels dread to tread'.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of Joe Foukona and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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