12 Aug 2010

Vanuatu police arrest eight over Tanna airstrip protest

6:28 pm on 12 August 2010

The Vanuatu Mobile Force has arrested 8 people from Tanna island in the Southern part of the country over a protest which delayed a plane's departure from the local airport for several hours on Tuesday.

The group allegedly managed to climb aboard the Air Vanuatu ATR72 plane bound for Port Vila and demand that passengers on board disembark.

The Police commissioner, Joshua Bong, says that the suspects surrendered to the VMF paramilitary police upon their arrival on Tanna yesterday and have been brought back to Port Vila to appear in court.

They are facing charges of breaching international civil aviation rules.

Mr Bong says that three other people suspected of involvement in the airstrip protest remain at large in Tanna, but that VMF is determined to capture them quickly.

Earlier Air Vanuatu said the protest was by former staff disgruntled at losing their jobs in a recent re-structure of the airline.

Police say the incident is the first in Vanuatu aviation history where civilians have taken control of an aircraft.