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By Royson Willie

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Nov. 2) – A weeklong regional conference on protecting the environment in Melanesia is underway on the island of Tanna in Tafea province of Vanuatu.

The conference, on the role of indigenous cultures in the preservation of the environment in Melanesian islands, brings together representatives from Fiji, Kanaky, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Papua.

Unlike other indigenous peoples in other parts of the world, almost all the Melanesian cultures are still strong under the customary laws they inherited from their ancestors. The customary laws and the views of the peoples on the natural environment have helped nature to stay almost untouched and unexploited.

However, there is no guarantee that this will stay the same in the long term as many extractive industries are now entering the territories after most parts of Asia’s natural resources have been exhausted.

Particularly logging and fishing companies are now moving towards the Melanesian region in their search for unexploited natural resources.

The activities of the Melanesian peoples so far in promoting their views and customary laws to protect their culture and nature have been done in isolated villages, islands or countries.

Therefore the purpose of the conference is threefold and these are to exchange views and experiences and ideas on the importance of the natural environment; establish, for the first time among the Melanesian peoples, a common view, principles and approaches based on traditional values; and to coordinate possible further steps to collectively address the environmental problems in the region.

This conference will be attended by chiefs and their representatives including the Chairman of the Vaturisu Chief Mormor, and the President of the Malvatumauri Council of Chiefs, Chief Paul Tahi, Luganville Lord Mayor Paul Hakwa and other leaders in the provinces of Vanuatu.

A welcome ceremony to the Melanesian visitors into the country wasconducted Thursday evening at Ekasup cultural village.

The President of the Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs, Chief Paul Tahi personally welcomed the visitors at Ekasup.

November 5, 2004

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