9 May 2006

Vanuatu chiefs show value of custom law as 20 prison escapers go back to jail

8:34 pm on 9 May 2006

Vanuatu's chiefs have proved that custom law is an effective tool to resolve problems after paying 20 custom fines to the police and leading 20 prison escapees back to jail.

The 20 high-risk inmates walked out of the maximum-security prison in Port Vila taking advantage of the unarmed security guards at the entrance who bolted at the sight of the angry prisoners, some of whom were shackled.

The inmates presented their complaints to the national council of chiefs who advised police prison guards not to mistreat them.

Chairman of the council, chief Paul Tahi, says violence cannot be resolved with violence.

However police authorities have insisted that prisoners have to be treated like prisoners.

But chief Tahi says western forms of punishment cannot be used successfully in Melanesian societies.

He warns that if the government cannot deal with prisoners successfully then chiefs would be prepared to use custom law to deal with the prisoners and their plight.