Kiribati accused of trying to hide ferry disaster report

The government of Kiribati was accused late last week of attempting to bury a report into the country’s worst-ever ferry disaster, in which only seven survived out of 88 people on board when the ferry sank.

Reportedly only a few hard copies have been released of the report into the loss of ferry MV Butiraoi, which sank in January 2018 after setting off from Nonouti island bound for the capital Tarawa. Kiribati consists of 33 atolls and reefs scattered over an area the size of the continental US.

Radio New Zealand reported that the report could only be viewed at President Taneti Maamau’s office or the national library in Tarawa. Those who saw the document could not copy it or even take notes about its contents.

Former Kiribati President Ierimia Tabai said he had seen the report and told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that “there was one that the ship wasn’t seaworthy when it was allowed to sail”, adding that the report also criticized delays in the rescue effort, which was not launched until eight days after the ferry disappeared. The seven survivors were found in a dinghy

Tabai criticized the restrictions imposed on the report’s availability, saying the government appeared worried about the failings highlighted in the document. Maamau’s government was criticized last year for obstructing Australian and New Zealand journalists wanting to travel to Kiribati to cover the aftermath of the disaster.