Chief attacked, house burnt amid in land disputes in Central Pentecost

The chief of Lebwibwi Village after being attacked by some men from a neighbouring village. Photo: Supplied

People in Central Pentecost have witnessed two incidents related to land disputes between families this month.

According to reports from Bwatnapni where the PENAMA Provincial Area Council is located, a chief from Lebwibwi Village was attacked last week by some young men from a neighbouring village following a claim over a land.

Eye witnesses reported the chief was punched several times before falling on the ground, sustaining several injuries.

He was later driven to Bwatnapni Clinic and his attackers were reportedly arrested and detained at Bwatnapni Police Post cell before they were released.

Another incident happened on Monday 14th of September. A house belonging to a family at Lekavik Village at Lesse Area was burnt down, allegedly by some individuals who are related to the chief who was attacked last week.

Reports say people from Central Pentecost have expressed their worry about violent land disputes and lack of intervention from chiefs.

“The situation is intensifying and we need urgent assistance from chiefs. We have only one police officer in charge of full Central Pentecost,” said a worried man from Bwatnapni.

People from Central Pentecost have not witnessed such violent acts for many years after a conflict between chiefs that resulted in the burning of houses and damaging of root crops in gardens.

It was at the beginning of this century that some chiefs decided to form a new Council they called Wilin as break-away from the existing Biltakan Council, following a decision from PENAMA Provincial Council. Disputes then ensued between chiefs from Wilin and those that remained in Biltakan.

The national Government had to intervene with the Vanuatu Mobile Force to restore peace and unity. A reconciliation ceremony took place in 2003, it was witnessed by then Prime Minister Edward Natapei at Bwatnapni.

The conflict between chiefs of Central Pentecost has created tension and land disputes within the community since.

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