Police in Vanuatu make arrests following burning of village
Up to 14 men arrested in Vanuatu after villages houses razed over land dispute.
The police in Vanuatu have arrested up to 14 men after a dispute over land left hundreds of villagers frightened and homeless on the island of Malekula.
Police chief of staff, Ron Tamtam, says a group of men armed with rifles arrived at Malua Bay on January 28th and fired shots into the air before burning down villagers' homes.
Mr Tamtam says locals were extremely frightened and ran into the bush, where some of them may still be in hiding.
He says the police were initially unable to reach the area due to flooding.
Ron Tamtam: A group of men, about three to seven people, they came onboard a vessel and they travelled to the northern part of this island, which is Malekula, on the central part of Vanuatu. They took a few rifles with them and they just shoot everywhere and they scared the people and they burn down about 47 houses. The exact location is Malua Bay, its northwest of the island, and it's about five hours drive from here. Later on we sent another patrol and our vehicle broke down on the way and we had to wait until the evening of Sunday the second of this month. And so eventually they went through to Malua Bay and started the interviewing process and they said they have arrested I think about 10 suspects and they have seized eight rifles.
AMELIA LANGFORD: So, the villagers must have been very scared?
RT: It is very scary and you know we cannot tolerate this kind of criminal activity here so we are starting to take a different level of approach just to make sure these kinds of incidents do not reoccur. The problem we have on Malekula is mainly to do with land disputes and we have land disputes all over the place right from north to south, west to east, and with limited resources we need to mobilise somehow and engage with the community to make sure the incidents don't come up to a level where we see worse things happen to our people here.
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