Another eviction will be taking place on Tuesday at areas of Prima and Mele Waisisi, adding to a series of human crisis that has been taking place lately.
The people living in those areas who are mostly from the island of Tanna were given a week to move, and both areas have a population of more than 300 people dwelling for the past decades.
Chief Joe Kwanausori who resides at Prima stated briefly that his people have come about to live in that area from an agreement between him and late Chief Masai Kalokai back in 2005.
“I came here in 2005 and was looking for a place to stay. I was told by late grandfather of a story of a visit by Chiefs Mele to Tanna and were given a kava root to bring back and cultivate with the message that one day, when the people of Tanna come to Efate they will have a place to stay,” he said.
“It was because of this that I came here and negotiated with late Chief Masai Kalokai and the Mele Council of Chiefs, after three months Chief Masai told me that they have agreed for me to stay here.”
Chief Joe said that he performed and exchanged a custom ceremony which the late Chief Masai and the Mele council accepted.
“I have acknowledged the late Chief and the Mele Council for their generosity and made it clear that if ever they want us to leave, they will have to make during good time and in the same way they have accepted us to live here and not in this way where we will be bulldozed out off the area-it was not what we agreed upon,” Chief Joe said.
“I have suspected something was going to happen earlier and the notice of the eviction came with just days for my people to move out, i want to make it clear that i came through the door and not through the window to live here and i will maintained this in regards to our Melanesian values enshrined in this country’s constitution and i can confirmed that my people and I have not done anything wrong for the past decade.”
Acting Director of the Immigration Department, Jeffery Markson reiterated the community of Waisisi have sought avenues to find a solution to keep the people of Waisisi to which all was turned down by the landowner of the area Chief Simeon Poilapa IV and his lawyer.
“The first approach taken by the Waisisi community was remind the landowner of the agreement and to meet but nothing happened and they made a suggestion to pay the land on which the community has occupied by making a deposit and then come up with a payment plan for monthly installments to which the landowner did not agree to-they want everyone to adhere to the eviction notice,” he said.
“The community has also tried to put a Court case through lawyer Edward Nalyal but was dismissed by the Magistrate court having already served the eviction order.”
This community was established in the 1970’s through a verbal agreement between the Mele Council of Chiefs and Waisisi to enable the construction of the Presbyterian church where the people can go to church while at the same time take care of this land on behalf of the landowners.
“In 2016, another agreement was signed by Chief Poilapa and lawyer Felix Lomai with the Vanuatu Project Management Unit, a project of the government to enable the sanitation project to be established at Waisisi that will benefit the people in this community and that indirectly showed these people were accepted and recognized as part of Mele community to live here,” Markson said.
“During the occasion, Chief Poilapa told the Waisisi community that no matter subdivisions will be taking place around Mele, the people of Waisisi will not be affected-this time its a totally different story.”
The eviction order will see the possibility of the church and the three project facilities demolished next week.
Markson made mentioned that the government should intervene in the matter, the verbal agreements and the custom agreements of villages that have been established on Efate and work out how they can be protected from such tragedy.
“We have our traditional way of doings and agreements based solely on our Melanesian values and Christian values and the government must step in right now due to projects done under VPMU funded by our development partners which is the Australian government,” he said.
“Most families have moved to be with their families living in other areas of Salili and Rantapao and others have paid their way back to the island.”
A meeting has been called for all Tannese living around Port Vila and Efate at the Chief’s Nakamal today (Saturday) at 10am.