KIRIBATI – The Catholic Church in Kiribati says it won’t be supporting a Russian businessman’s plans buy uninhabited islands on which to revive the Romanov empire.
Anton Bakov, who is a monarchist, wants to use three uninhabited islands in the Southern Line Islands to build a resort complex, and also create what he calls an ‘alternative Russia’.
The church’s Bishop Paul Mea says the church would oppose Bakov’s proposal if he pursued his plan to rebuild the Romanov empire, which ended in 1917 with the Bolshevik revolution.
However, he said the church has no problem with the government leasing the islands to Bakov for a resort – as long as Kiribati retained overall control.
The Kiribati Government’s Foreign Investment Commission is still considering Bakov’s proposal and a decision is expected soon.
“I think it would be good because tourism is a source of income for the country but it must be done in respect to the population and our culture also,” Bishop Mea said.
He said while the Russian businessman’s intentions seem genuine, his ideas belong in the past.
“ I don’t know his background. I met him. We came together from Nadi to here, and they visited me with some members of parliament. But I only know that they are going to develop it as a resort.
“He seemed to be good. He doesn’t know much English. But the wife is the one, talking in English, translating what he said. I think he knows that in Kiribati the churches are very influential with the government. That’s why he came to visit me.
Bishop Mea said he is reasonably happy about the deal as long the Russian millionaire leases the land and does not buy the island.
“More or less. Because that island there is doing nothing. It is better we get some money from it. Building a resort is a good idea. I can’t see anything wrong with it provided that it is controlled by the government.
But the bishop said the church is not at all in support of the Russian man having his own empire in Kiribati.
“We are not very keen on that. We are only keen that he develops a resort or some other development but not an empire. I hope the government will not accept his proposal if he is thinking of an empire.
I think the empire has gone. It belongs to the past. It doesn’t make any sense now. The time has gone. The empires have been replaced by democracy now, as we know, and Kiribati is a democratic country.
We’re trying to meet our president. We are the council of churches and we are going to propose to meet our president and give our opinion.” Bishop Mea said.