21 Aug 2003

Vanuatu Chiefs say charging people after custom reconciliation mocks the process

9:43 am on 21 August 2003

The Vanuatu Council of Chiefs has called on other authorities to ensure that in any dispute an investigation is carried out by the police or ombudsman before a custom reconciliation can be arranged.

The secretary general of the council, Sandy Ishmael, says when a traditional reconciliation is organised first, later investigations make a mockery of custom by prosecuting those who have accepted a custom remedy.

Mr Ishmael says the Council does not condone crime but he believes the most suitable solution to many of today's problems is through custom.

He says it is becoming clear that modern law often doesn't work in Melanesian society, because in a reconciliation or custom court, everyone goes away with a positive attitude, after the exchange of mats or pigs.