5 Mar 2007

State of emergency declared in Vanuatu capital following clashes

4:44 pm on 5 March 2007

Vanuatu's government has declared a state of emergency in the capital Port Vila following deadly tribal clashes in the weekend.

The conflict between people of Tanna and Ambrym islands at the Blacksands squatter settlement area on the fringe of the capital left two men dead, and several people seriously injured.

The Prime Minister Ham Lini and chiefs from the affected communities met yesterday, before the cabinet met to also discuss how to stop the tension.

Mr Lini says the two-week state of emergency will forbid public meetings in Vila, restrict movement between other islands and Efate, and also some movement between suburbs of the capital.

"Also the police have been given rights to carry weapons, also it gives them powers if they have to, to fire the weapon. Also it allows the commissioner to recruit constables from within Vanuatu or outside."

Ham Lini says calm has now been restored in the Blacksands area after fighting erupted on Saturday over an allegation that a man from Ambrym had stabbed a Tannese at the settlement.

In return, a young man from Ambrym who was visiting relatives in Port Vila was also stabbed to death.