VANUATU CHIEF CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO ADDRESS SOCIAL ISSUES

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PORT VILA, Vanuatu (The Independent, November 21) – High rates of crime, school drop outs, and the current high consumption of drugs need serious consideration and immediate action from the Vanuatu government, in order to maintain the current status of Vanuatu as "the Happiest Place in the World", and "the Untouched Paradise".

Tannese Chief George Nipiko said this after listening to statements from youngsters in the Vila magistrate court two weeks ago who claimed that some police force members have bought drugs from them.

Nipiko also claimed that there are a number of unemployed women, widows and girls as young as 13 and 14 years involved in 'prostitution', to earn money for their families.

"There is a high incidence of teenage pregnancies and broken homes, and now we have HIV/AIDS, because the government is not taking any positive action to address those social issues, to try and help resolve the needs of the citizens," he claimed.

Nipiko, who has been living at Magenta in New Caledonia, said that if we are not careful, Vanuatu will be faced with social issues like in New Caledonia where many of the Kanak people are badly affected by drugs. "They have lands but do not grow food crops. With the income earned from drugs, they do not wish to seek employment anymore."

He also claimed that 'strange' activities are taking place during nights and weekends at the Vila sea front involving teenage girls walking along the sea wall with mobile phones. He asked what responsible parents allow their children to walk about at night like that. ? When interviewed, one of the girls replied bae yu givim mane long mi!

"This is an example of a number of social issues that the government needs to deal with in collaboration with chiefs, not only in the two towns, but also in the islands, to find a solution," advised Nipiko.

"A national summit to address social issues, could pave the way to solutions," Nipiko suggested.

In another matter, he also said the government and leaders have to do something about foreigners taking over shops and takeaways in businesses reserved to ni-Vanuatu citizens, under the reserved list of the Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority (VIPA).

"We mustn't wait until these issues are uncontrollable. Arresting suspects for the cultivation and use of marijuana is not remedy."

Another area of concern Nipiko pointed out is school fees when there are insufficient jobs for everybody.

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