5 Oct 2006

Performer dies during opening ceremony of Melanesian Arts Festival

10:24 am on 5 October 2006

The Vanuatu contingent at the Melanesian Arts Festival in Suva has blamed poor hospitality for the death of one of its members during the opening ceremony on Tuesday night.

The Daily Post reports that Francis Siti, 42, who was a member of Vanutau's well-known Huarere Band, collapsed and died during the march-in by 900 participants.

The newspaper says although no cause of death has been established, it quotes the leader of the Vanuatu delegation, Abong Marcelin, as saying poor hospitality could be a contributing factor.

Mr Marcelin claimed they were not fed during normal meal times and left starving for hours on end, and added that Francis Siti could have gone to the opening on an empty stomach.

He said yesterday no lunch was provided and the organisers gave them money to buy lunch at 3.00pm.

The Vanuatu government representative at the festival, Peter Sakita, has echoed similar sentiments.

The director of the festival organising committee, Nelson Delailomaloma, said he was aware of the complaints from the Vanutau delegation and is now investigating.