Returning to Island of origin, bartering proposed by National Council of Chiefs as options for families in Port Vila amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

Malvatumauri President, Chief Willie Plasua

Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, the Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs has come forward to suggest alternatives for families who are struggling.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused direct negative economic and social impacts on the lives of many Ni-Vanuatu families living in Port Vila and Luganville, Santo,” President of the Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs, Chief Willie Gray Plasua noted.

“The council I lead realises the hardships, and difficulties our people are facing since COVID-19 emerged in China and spread globally.

“They wish to offer some options in support of the tremendous economic responsibilities by our national government so far.”

He said the options may not be partly or fully accepted by individual families living in Port Vila, especially those who have lived in the capital for many years, and have made Port Vila their permanent home.

For those who have come to live here temporarily, the options the Malvatumauri is offering, could be considered as short and long term solutions.

“The first option is for the families living in Port Vila to consider returning to the home islands, if this can be arranged between themselves and their families, tribes and communities back on their island of origins,” the head of the national council of chiefs said.

“We know it is not easy as it may seems, but the long term benefit would be that they can begin to settle down slowly over a period time and if the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the world for the next couple of years, at least, the families who return home will have a better chance to develop new homes and adapt to island life which would be much better than those living in towns of Port Vila and Luganville Santo.

“This is mainly for those who have lost jobs and those that may feel they wish to return to their home island and begin a new life.”

In this regard, the Malvatumauri President is calling on the national and provincial governments to carry out a survey amongst the islanders living in Port Vila to see if there are people who wish to return home but need assistance in terms of sea, air and land transportation.

He said these options must be considered now in case the COVID-19 pandemic continues for a longer period. “It is a fact that while the government do all it can to assist our suffering people, we don’t know how these people live day by day,” chief Plasua said.

“So it is important for the national government, the island chiefs and churches to act together to ensure the Ni-Vanuatu families living in Port Vila are not overtaken by a sudden poverty situation.”

He gave other options as Ni-Vanuatu families living in Port Vila return to traditional bartering or traditional market where goods are exchanged.

“Families who run local traditional food market may accept imported food products for their local produce instead of cash,” the Chief suggested. He said sometimes mothers selling their produce return home with their produce without receiving cash for it, but if they barter, they will have basic needs such a sugar, rice, or such other basic needs for their families.

He calls on the national government, the provincial government and the Port Vila Municipalities to step in and support these options with the hope to alleviate economic hardships face by Ni-Vanuatu families living in Port Vila and Luganville Santo.

He said his council is prepared to expand on the options, with the support of the national, provincial and municipal governments and relevant authorities.

The chief encourages the population of Vanuatu to continue placing their hope in God through prayers by every churches and christians throughout Vanuatu.

“I call on the national government, the chiefs, the churches and every leader in Port Vila to unite together with open hearts in order to ensure every families in Port Vila and Luganville Santo don’t miss out on daily meals in their lives,” he said.

“We are all responsible for each other.”

He said this is not the time for Ni-Vanuatu to criticize one another, nor stand afar and watch others suffer, rather it is time for Ni-Vanuatu to pull together, stand united, support one another as true Melanesian people.

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