High Chiefs of Melsisi on Central Pentecost have welcomed a custom protocol initiative by the Minister of Climate Change, Ham Lini to return to say sorry to them in the custom way, three months after a custom protocol was breached by a Government Official.
According to the Director General of Climate Change, Jesse Benjamin, during the course of consultations, the evacuation and the eventual repatriation of the victims of Lombenben volcano on Ambae to and from the island of Pentecost, a custom protocol was breached at Melsisi by a Government official, in a custom Nakamal. Though disappointed, the high Chiefs of Melsisi remained quiet, allowing the blunder to pass, given the state of emergency at that time.
The shock and disappointment registered in the expression of the paramount Chiefs did not go unnoticed by the Minister of Climate Change, who is also a high chief of North Pentecost, and was part of the Government delegation to Pentecost at the time.
Now three months after the incident, the minister diverted the official tour of his constituency of Pentecost to set things right in custom with the high Chiefs of Melsisi. The ceremony entailed the presentation of two traditional red mats, highly valued in Pentecost custom, to the Chiefs of Melsisi.
“Whilst the society today continues to embrace and advocate for the rights of gender groups, we need to also understand and inform everyone of the fundamental difference in custom between the role and duty of these groups in our communities. The misunderstanding of this role and duty unfortunately resulted in the disrespect of the Melsisi Nakamal, in my presence, following the events of the Ambae Volcano,” said minister Lini.
“As minister responsible for Climate Change and in my capacity as a custom chief of Pentecost, i feel it is my responsibility to set things right. Accordingly, i apologise sincerely on behalf of the Government for the unfortunate breach of custom and I seek the forgiveness of the Chiefs of Melsisi”.
In acceptance of the custom presentation by the minister, the Chief representative of Melsisi thanked the Minister for the gesture of respect to the Melsisi Nakamal.
“At the time of the incident, we remained quiet, given the state of emergency imposed during the volcanic eruptions on the island of Ambae,” the chief said. “We never expected such a gesture from Government, but we acknowledge that it has happened only because of the wisdom of a true leader and for that we thank you”.
The whole island of Pentecost is very much steeped in custom traditions and practices that are essential for the maintenance of peace and respect amongst communities, tribes, families and individuals. The humble and selfless act by the Minister allows for continued and wholehearted future engagement with the Chiefs of Melsisi
The important ceremony was witnessed by Chiefs of Melsisi, Church leaders of Melsisi, members of the community and the delegation accompanying the Minister of Climate Change on his tour of Pentecost.
The opportunity also enabled the community to understand better the work of the Ministry of Climate Change and the functions of its line departments before the Minister continued on his visit to north Pentecost.