Custom chief and owner of Duviara Guest in North Ambae; Chief Virenaliu Paul Vuhu says there are two sides to everything.
With regards to scientific explanation concerning the Manaro Volcano, the chief says he and his family have respected the Government order for compulsory evacuation, and are now displaced people in Luganville.
In the 2005 threat, the chief and his family were among the last 300 people to leave their village after police intervention.
On the other hand he says he strongly believes the volcanic eruption won’t worsen because according to their customs, the Manaro valley and lakes and smoking volcano are all parts and parcel of the “sacred place and paradise” where they believe after death, their spirits go to live happily ever after.
Chief Virenaliu says, “While prevention is better than cure, I think the evacuation should have focused on the people in the West, North West and South of the island based on historical evidence that the areas could be prone to volcanic lava”.
On the same note he says historical evidence has shown that the people of the North, North East and East Ambae have always been safe from any threat from the volcano.
“The latest eruption is necessary to add to the natural beauty and wealth of Ambae.
“Manaro cannot be compared to the Ambrym and Tanna volcanoes. All new comers to the island have to travel to the Manaro themselves to experience the spirit of the place,” he says.
“If you are a new comer, Kelevu our custom gatekeeper to the valley will welcome you by enveloping your vision and environment with a mist you have not experienced before then allows you to feel the peace and serenity of the place,” he says.
Turning biblical Chief Virenaliu says before God sent fire to reduce Sodom and Gomorrah; He showed His loving kindness to Abraham’s relatives by allowing Lot and his family to escape except his wife.
“In the same way as an indigenous custom chief of my people, I do not believe Tagaro (God) would be brutal to destroy the island with volcanic fury,” he says.
Asked his opinion of the mass evacuation of the people of Ambae, Chief Virenaliu says it has to happen to teach both the Government and people to better prepare for a similar exodus on other islands in the future.
On another matter the chief says the body of the late Chief Mathew from Nangire who died in Luganville after the evacuation is in a mortuary in the Northern District Hospital.
“It will be repatriated to be buried in his village as evidence of ownership to custom land,” the chief said.