Education ‘Key’ To Future Of Kiribati’s People: Anote Tong
MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Feb. 21, 2013) – The President of Kiribati says education is the key to the future of his people threatened by climate change.
President Anote Tong told Australia Network's Newsline that if some of the Kiribati population has to relocate he wants them to qualify as skilled migrants, not climate refugees.
Last week President Tong made a joint statement to the United Nations Security Council with Australia's foreign minister, Bob Carr.
"We are asking for assistance from Australia to try and put this across... to the international community, to make the point that... climate change for some countries is a very serious security issue," he said.
President Tong said his government's purchase of land in Fiji is an investment for the future.
"The view that we've taken is we should diversify, and we should diversify into land investments," he said.
"I've often been asked: 'Did Kiribati as a government buy this land as somewhere to locate the people?' I've never said yes and the reason is because it is not, that won't be the case now.
"I won't be here when the time comes to relocate our people and I think the leaders of the day...will have to answer that question."
Mr. Tong says he sees education as providing a more secure future for his people.
Last year Australia's Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, unveiled a five-year Australian aid program of assistance for vocational training in Kiribati.
President Tong said he'd asked Australia's former prime minister why Australia was taking in migrants from elsewhere and not the Pacific.
He said he was told that 'We need these people because they're skilled.'
"My response was 'Why don't you help us train our people so that we can contribute to your development this way,'" President Tong said.
"The issue of climate change must be addressed very, very soon... as far as Kiribati and a number of countries are concerned, it is an event and it is a catastrophe that is actually happening now."
Radio Australia: www.abc.net.au/ra
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