Acting Prime Minister, Ralph Regenvanu, has asked chiefs on National Chiefs Day to work on and identify the true governing structure of Vanuatu, based on traditional Melanesian values that can be moulded to provide a future leadership model for chiefs.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs who was Acting Prime Minister at the time said it is important for chiefs to also put aside self interest as well as land disputes, and display leadership to serve communities and the nation.
Regenvanu said if chiefs can meet this challenge, their role in the country is assured in terms of the government being happy to ‘sharing powers’ as requested by the Malvatumauri President in his speech.
But that will depend a lot on the kind of leadership role of chiefs identified for the communities.
“If this is achieved it will set Vanuatu’s canoe in a straight path for decades to come,” Mr Regenvanu said in his speech at the Chiefs Nakamal in Port Vila.
Regenvanu, who has extensive knowledge in mechanisms of Vanuatu custom following his long service as Director of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, acknowledged that the country is founded on traditional Melanesian values as stated by the Preamble of the Constitution.
He said it is now nearly 40 years since Independence and some changes have taken place that shows the direction Vanuatu is taking to uphold traditional Melanesian values.
One of these is the amendment to the Constitution around five years ago to allow Malvatumauri to have a say in any law going to parliament that affects custom, land and language.
“We have the National Council of Chiefs Act that provides the legal framework for the Council to work on,” he said.
Mr Regenvanu said he understands there are a lot of amendments to the law coming up.
He said another platform that gives chiefs greater roles in the country is the 2011 Malvatumauri Roadmap.
Even the National Sustainable Development Plan that the government is working on has its foundation on culture as Vanuatu recognizes that culture is the basis for all developments taking place in this country.
With the Malvatumauri President’s mention of the national curriculum, Mr Regenvanu said the national vernacular policy should by strengthened under the national education policy.
He appeals to the Ministry of Education to focus on basic education as this is a key area to retain traditional values.
Other areas that Mr Regenvanu mentioned that chiefs have a greater involvement in through law include fisheries, environment, looking after communities as authorised persons, and decentralization through local area councils where a chief is the chairman.
The decentralization also includes women, youth, business and churches in 18 local area councils.
He said in policing in terms of law and justice, the role of chiefs is recognized.
“We must thank chiefs.
“A number of national crises have been averted through chiefs as the government’s arm was short (to quell the situation),” Regenvanu empahsized of the important role of chiefs in Vanuatu.