Farewell speech by Ursula Rakova from Tulele Peisa

Chain Reaction #119, Nov 2013, www.foe.org.au/chain-reaction/editions/119

This inspiring speech was delivered by Ursula Rakova, Executive Director of FoE Australia affiliate Tulele Peisa. On behalf of the community of Woroav village, site of the first relocation of Carteret Islands families, Ursula was farewelling and thanking visitors from Newtok, Alaska, and the Ahus and Western islands of Manus Province in PNG. It illustrates a new momentum in the struggle for climate justice being generated by face-to-face contacts among representatives of communities already facing hazardous circumstances threatening their well-being and cultural integrity. The full speech will be uploaded to www.tulele-peisa.org.

− Wendy Flannery, Climate Frontlines, FoE Brisbane.

We welcomed you a few days ago and now we bid you farewell not only as friends but as part of a much larger network of communities facing the same fate of climate change and its impacts; you have all become part of our little community here in Woroav. Speaking for the community of 70 plus people in Woroav village, it is an honour and privilege to say thank you and to bid farewell to you all:

  • Stanley, George, Robin from Alaska and Allyson for coming all the way from the States to visit us in Woroav, Tinputz, Papua New Guinea;
  • Dr. Gabriel, Michael and Isaiah from Manus Province;
  • Sally of The National newspaper of PNG in accompanying the visitors to Buka, Woroav and the Carterets – your contribution to The National provides further advocacy on our issue.

Global warming which causes climate change and rising sea levels has no barriers and boundaries. You have witnessed in the Carterets the efforts of my people to try to contain the impacts to levels which could permit them to continue live on the islands by erecting sea walls and planting of mangroves. This does not deter the sea from eating the shorelines.

We value and trust the learnings and shared experiences gained from the challenge which has brought us together as communities, from Alaska, from Ahus and the Western Islands in Manus, and the Carterets. We will not let climate change impacts take away and control our lives as we are determined to be a voice for our people and our communities. We must take the learnings from each other forward and incorporate them into our programs wherever they could fit best.

What we have learnt most from our brothers in Alaska is the Training Fund program, where Stanley has built the capacity of the young people in Newtok to train in various fields and trades to be further employed into the community ... To our brothers from Manus: your visit means that we as Papua New Guineans need to stand together as a voice and get our leaders to stop talking politics and get back to the basics, the basic fundamentals of human rights and the rights of communities displaced because of climate change. We may all have a right to move to where we want; but where will we move to? This is a question that often goes unanswered. To the American friends, Robin and Alysson: as attorneys we hope and pray you will break some new ground in climate change litigation to support us, the most vulnerable communities ...

We have built a strong network of people who are not sitting around and waiting for help to come by. Let's continue to keep ourselves informed as together, as a voice and a force, we continue to forge ahead to build safe and peaceful communities for our people.