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6/27/2008

2007 Ethnic violence in Vanuatu

Filed under: General,global islands,ideology,vanuatu — admin @ 4:42 am

Almost 200 people have been arrested in Vanuatu after tribal violence flared amid claims of black magic.

Three people have been killed in the South Pacific island nation.

A state of emergency has been declared after fighting broke out at the Blacksands squatter camp on the outskirts of the capital, Port Vila.

The fighting – sparked by accusations that a sorcerer had used witchcraft to kill a rival – escalated rapidly and spread through the settlement.

Blacksands is home to thousands of people who have migrated to the capital from other parts of Vanuatu.

Villagers from the islands of Ambrym and Tanna fought with machetes and knives. Local police said the ethnic violence was the worst the Melanesian nation had ever seen.

It left three men dead and others seriously hurt. Dozens of people have been arrested, including a number of tribal chiefs.

A state of emergency has been imposed and public meetings have been banned for the next two weeks.

The country’s unarmed police officers have been given special permission to carry weapons just in case there is more trouble.

Many residents across Vanuatu’s archipelago have been forbidden from travelling to Efate, the main island where Port Vila is located.

Although Christianity has strong roots in this corner of the South Pacific, witchcraft and superstition remain powerful forces.

On the island of Tanna villagers worship a mystical American called John Frum, while others believe that the husband of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is a god. Vanuatu’s Great Council of Chiefs is expected to meet next week to look at ways to defuse tensions between rival tribes in Port Vila.

Kastom

One of the many unique aspects of kastom is the bulu scar. Believing they are vulnerable to an attack from a devil while walking alone through the forest, the people from this highland tribe of Vanuatu go to painful measures to do what they believe will protect them. Taking a burnt thorn from a sago palm, they push it into their flesh and then set it on fire. It sears the flesh, festers, and then forms a scab which will heal into a bulu scar. They do this because they believe that by enduring this pain they arouse the compassion of a powerful spirit they call Taute, and in turn Taute empowers the bulu to ward off evil spirits and damate (ancestral ghosts) when they travel through the jungle.

A boy receives his first bulu when he is five to seven years old. At that time, a minimum of five holes are burnt into the flesh of his biceps and as many as thirty if he can endure the pain. Since they believe a protective spirit enters each wound, they feel the more the better. After receiving their bulus, the boys are lowered into a pit where they live in isolation for ten days surviving only on wild yams that have been cooked in bamboo. During these ten days the boys are forbidden to leave the pit for any reason. This period of isolation is believed to be a form of rebirth and spiritual growth.

6/10/2008

New foundation seeks to preserve rare Vanuatu language

Filed under: global islands,language,vanuatu — admin @ 1:40 pm

France’s former president, Jacques Chirac, has launched his new foundation,which will support projects aimed at promoting sustainable development and cultural diversity, with a special focus on languages and cultures threatened with extinction.

One of its first projects will be a programme to preserve what is left of the Araki language, now spoken by only eight people on one island in Vanuatu.

6/6/2008

Pacific population nears 9.5 million

Filed under: fiji,General,global islands,palau,png,solomon islands,tuvalu,vanuatu — admin @ 4:56 am

The population of the Pacific is set to reach nearly 9.5 million by the middle of this year.

New data from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community shows the region’s population is growing by 1.9 per cent a year, or 500 people a day.

The population estimates are compiled by the Secretariat from country statistics.

The report predicts the population of Melanesia will grow to more than eight-point-three million people, Polynesia to more than 655,000 and Micronesia more than 530,000 by mid-year.

The largest individual country population is that of Papua New Guinea, which has an estimated six-point-five million people, followed by Fiji with nearly 840,000.

The smallest is Pitcairn Island with just 66 people.

Predictably, the fastest-growing population is that of Guam, where thousands of American troops are being relocated from Japan.

Both Niue and the Northern Marianas are experiencing a decrease in residents, the latter because of the lack of jobs.

6/5/2008

Human trafficking list

Fiji and Papua New Guinea have been added to a United States blacklist of countries trafficking in people.

The Tier Three blacklist is contained in the US State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report.

The report analyses efforts in 170 countries to combat trafficking for forced labour, prostitution, military service and other purposes.

Pacific correspondent, Campbell Cooney, says the report claims Fiji is a source country for children trafficked for sexual exploitation, and a destination for women from China and India for forced labour and exploitation.

It also claims Papua New Guinea is the destination for women and children from Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and China for sexual exploitation in cities, towns and isolated logging and mining camps.

Remaining on the Tier Three list are Sudan, Syria, Algeria, Iran, Burma and Cuba, while Malaysia and Bahrain have been removed.

In introducing the report, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said human trafficking deprives people of their human rights and dignity, and “bankrolls the growth of organised crime”.

“The petty tyrants who exploit their labourers rarely receive serious punishment,” she said.

“We and our allies must remember that a robust law enforcement response is essential.”

Meanwhile, the Netherlands has allocated $US2.5 million for the elimination of child labour in Papua New Guinea.

The National newspaper reports the funding is part of a 36-month program that also covers Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

PNG acting deputy secretary for Labour and Industrial Relations, Martin Kase, says the program will help determine the extent of child labour in the country.

He says current data is inadequate.

5/31/2008

The secret of Vanuatu's happiness

Filed under: General,global islands,vanuatu — admin @ 3:08 pm

The South Pacific country of Vanuatu has been voted the happiest place in the world so what makes its inhabitants such a happy lot?

The twin pillars of a classically happy life – strong family ties and a general absence of materialism – are common throughout this island nation

Jean Pierre John is living the dream. That popular fantasy of owning one’s own island, complete with swaying coconut palms, coral sea and tropical forest, is his for real.

On the island called Metoma, in the far north of Vanuatu, Jean Pierre can look around and truly say that he is master of all he surveys.

This single fact would put Jean Pierre in an exclusive club, you would think, one made up of billionaire businessmen, royalty and rock stars.

But Jean Pierre is none of these things. In fact, he could not be more different.

On Metoma, Jean Pierre and his family live in thatched huts.

They have no electricity or running water, no radio or television, and their only mode of transport is a rowing boat, which pretty much limits them to trips to the neighbouring island.

On top of that, they have little money and few opportunities to make any.

No money?! Suddenly their island life does not sound all that glamorous. But here’s the thing, the Johns really are happy.

This may sound surprising but living on their island they want for nothing.

Local produce

All the family’s food comes from on or around Metoma. Coconuts, yam, and manioc – their staple diet – are all grown on the island and then, of course, there is a sea full of fish to harvest.

And if fish protein gets boring, there is always the occasional fruit bat, from a colony that roosts on the island.

Indeed, food is so easy to gather that the family appears to have a lot of relaxation time.

When the Johns do have money – perhaps when they sell one of the few cows they own – they will buy soap powder and kerosene for their lamps.

But if not, they are just as happy to make do with island solutions – sticks which can be crushed to make soap and coconut oil in place of kerosene.

Some useful items are even washed up onto their island – buoys from boats are cut in half to make bowls and old fishing nets are recycled as hammocks.

It may sound like a Robinson Crusoe existence, and in many ways it is, but the Johns are not castaways. They live on Metoma out of choice.

Jean Pierre had not heard that Vanuatu had been voted happiest country in the world but, when I told him, he nodded in a knowingly happy sort of way

It is not as if they have not experienced some of the trappings of a more modern world.

Jean Pierre grew up on one of Vanuatu’s larger islands and still makes the occasional visit. His eldest son, Joe, even went to school in the nation’s capital.

In fact Joe, a very easy-going 28-year-old, had recently returned to Metoma to live full time and he told me that the only thing he missed was hip hop music, but that it was a small price to pay for living on the island.

No money worries

Jean Pierre had not heard that Vanuatu had been voted happiest country in the world but, when I told him, he nodded in a knowingly happy sort of way.

So what is his secret of happiness?

“Not having to worry about money,” he immediately replies, while picking his nose in an uninhibited way.

If you asked the same question in the UK, you would probably get the same response. The only difference is that, in Jean Pierre’s case, it means not needing any money, rather than having bundles of it.

We can all repeat the mantra “money can’t buy you happiness” until we are blue in the face, but deep down, how many of us in the West really believe it to be true?

But I can see that Jean Pierre’s happiness is more than just a question of money. It also comes from having his family around him, and there is undoubtedly an enormous respect between them.

Absence of materialism

His children – and this includes those of adult age – do anything their father asks, not out of coercion but because they genuinely want to please.

Forget the Waltons, the Johns are the real McCoy: one happy family.

While talking to Jean Pierre, I find myself wondering whether he is the most contented person I have ever met.

But he is keen to know whether I am having a good time on his island too. Every day he asks me if I am happy. When I tell him things are great, his eyes light up and he replies in pidgin, “Oh, tenkyu.”

Whether happiness can truly be measured is a debatable point, but there is no doubt that Metoma – or indeed Vanuatu as a whole – has the ingredients to encourage a greater sense of happiness.

The twin pillars of a classically happy life – strong family ties and a general absence of materialism – are common throughout this island nation.

The simple things in life, it seems, really do make you happy.

The secret of Vanuatu’s happiness

Filed under: General,global islands,vanuatu — admin @ 3:08 pm

The South Pacific country of Vanuatu has been voted the happiest place in the world so what makes its inhabitants such a happy lot?

The twin pillars of a classically happy life – strong family ties and a general absence of materialism – are common throughout this island nation

Jean Pierre John is living the dream. That popular fantasy of owning one’s own island, complete with swaying coconut palms, coral sea and tropical forest, is his for real.

On the island called Metoma, in the far north of Vanuatu, Jean Pierre can look around and truly say that he is master of all he surveys.

This single fact would put Jean Pierre in an exclusive club, you would think, one made up of billionaire businessmen, royalty and rock stars.

But Jean Pierre is none of these things. In fact, he could not be more different.

On Metoma, Jean Pierre and his family live in thatched huts.

They have no electricity or running water, no radio or television, and their only mode of transport is a rowing boat, which pretty much limits them to trips to the neighbouring island.

On top of that, they have little money and few opportunities to make any.

No money?! Suddenly their island life does not sound all that glamorous. But here’s the thing, the Johns really are happy.

This may sound surprising but living on their island they want for nothing.

Local produce

All the family’s food comes from on or around Metoma. Coconuts, yam, and manioc – their staple diet – are all grown on the island and then, of course, there is a sea full of fish to harvest.

And if fish protein gets boring, there is always the occasional fruit bat, from a colony that roosts on the island.

Indeed, food is so easy to gather that the family appears to have a lot of relaxation time.

When the Johns do have money – perhaps when they sell one of the few cows they own – they will buy soap powder and kerosene for their lamps.

But if not, they are just as happy to make do with island solutions – sticks which can be crushed to make soap and coconut oil in place of kerosene.

Some useful items are even washed up onto their island – buoys from boats are cut in half to make bowls and old fishing nets are recycled as hammocks.

It may sound like a Robinson Crusoe existence, and in many ways it is, but the Johns are not castaways. They live on Metoma out of choice.

Jean Pierre had not heard that Vanuatu had been voted happiest country in the world but, when I told him, he nodded in a knowingly happy sort of way

It is not as if they have not experienced some of the trappings of a more modern world.

Jean Pierre grew up on one of Vanuatu’s larger islands and still makes the occasional visit. His eldest son, Joe, even went to school in the nation’s capital.

In fact Joe, a very easy-going 28-year-old, had recently returned to Metoma to live full time and he told me that the only thing he missed was hip hop music, but that it was a small price to pay for living on the island.

No money worries

Jean Pierre had not heard that Vanuatu had been voted happiest country in the world but, when I told him, he nodded in a knowingly happy sort of way.

So what is his secret of happiness?

“Not having to worry about money,” he immediately replies, while picking his nose in an uninhibited way.

If you asked the same question in the UK, you would probably get the same response. The only difference is that, in Jean Pierre’s case, it means not needing any money, rather than having bundles of it.

We can all repeat the mantra “money can’t buy you happiness” until we are blue in the face, but deep down, how many of us in the West really believe it to be true?

But I can see that Jean Pierre’s happiness is more than just a question of money. It also comes from having his family around him, and there is undoubtedly an enormous respect between them.

Absence of materialism

His children – and this includes those of adult age – do anything their father asks, not out of coercion but because they genuinely want to please.

Forget the Waltons, the Johns are the real McCoy: one happy family.

While talking to Jean Pierre, I find myself wondering whether he is the most contented person I have ever met.

But he is keen to know whether I am having a good time on his island too. Every day he asks me if I am happy. When I tell him things are great, his eyes light up and he replies in pidgin, “Oh, tenkyu.”

Whether happiness can truly be measured is a debatable point, but there is no doubt that Metoma – or indeed Vanuatu as a whole – has the ingredients to encourage a greater sense of happiness.

The twin pillars of a classically happy life – strong family ties and a general absence of materialism – are common throughout this island nation.

The simple things in life, it seems, really do make you happy.

4/29/2008

Man charged over Pacific money laundering scheme

Filed under: global islands,intra-national,vanuatu,wealth — admin @ 5:52 am

A 58-year-old Australian man is due to be extradited to from Western Australia to the state of New South Wales after police broke up an international money laundering scheme.

The alleged scheme operated in Australia, Vanuatu and New Zealand and involved around $US87 million.

Robert Agius, who had been living in Vanuatu, has been charged with fraud and money laundering offences relating to the scheme, which was exposed by a police task force targeting tax evasion.

Australian federal police officer, Warren Gray, says around 400 people put money into a scheme, allegedly operated by Agius, in which millions of dollars was moved into offshore bank accounts to avoid tax

Agius was arrested on Monday in the western Australian city of Perth, and appeared briefly in court where he was ordered to be returned to Sydney to face trial.

He faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison if convicted.

4/8/2008

Vanuatu newspaper written by hand

Filed under: global islands,vanuatu — admin @ 5:39 am

Vanuatu’s Pentecost Island can boast to have the only newspaper that’s written by hand.

The Pentecost Star, now eight months old, is a weekly newspaper.

It is the brainchild of Keith Hango, a former newspaper boy for the Trading Post newspaper.

The newsletter is written in English and comes out every Saturday.

Hango single-handedly writes all of the newspaper’s contents by hand.

His only tools are pen, paper, ruler and a stapler and staples all of which he buys himself.

Hango said he started the newsletter because he saw a great need to disseminate interesting, factual information to the people of Pentecost.

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