5 Feb 2007

Vanuatu village split over orders for eviction of some families

11:09 am on 5 February 2007

In Vanuatu, three hundred people belonging to Mele Maat Village have voted in their first custom chief and six village police after they were threatened with eviction by the overall chief of the village.

The new custom chief, Ketes Harry, says the first task of his council is to work to bring back peace and unity among their 300 members of their households without interfering with the work of the village overall Chief David.

Chief David accused them of disrespect for his authority and general village lawlessness saying they were strangers and had to leave.

The 300 have stood their ground saying they were born in the village and are entitled to stay.

They are descendants of people who settled there after a major volcanic eruption in Ambrym in 1913.

The eruption forced villagers of Maat Village in South East Ambrym to settle in Epi Island before eventually moving to Efate where the Capital city is situated and settle in Mele Maat Village.

The secretary of the newly elected chief Mr John Enock said all chiefs should work to unite their people to promote peace.

Mele Maat Village has become the latest village to split into two after the country's biggest village called Mele, which has 3,000 people, appointed two chiefs to rule the village.