VANUATU AIRPORT TABOO CANCELS FLIGHTS

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Disgruntled chief invokes crossed ‘namele’ leaves

By Jane Joshua PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Dec. 9, 2009) – In Vanuatu, four truckloads of angry men from north-east Malekula have forced the responsible chief of Tautu who put the ‘namele’ leaves on Norsup airport to remove the traditional ban yesterday afternoon.

[PIR editor’s note: Namele leaves, from the palm known as the Chief's Palm, pose a very real deterrent in the culture of Vanuatu. If two leaves are crossed over and placed at the door of any place of business, the staff will bluntly refuse to enter that property. The business has no choice but to cease to run, until such time as the problem is solved.

Namele leaves are shown as a peace sign on the Vanuatu flag, along with pig tusks, a symbol of wealth. However Namele leaves are also used as a very strong emblem of taboo.]

In addition Air Vanuatu Acting CEO Joseph Laloyer has also confirmed in a statement to media that the airport has re-opened and Air Vanuatu flights have resumed.

But Daily Post was informed that four vehicles made two trips carrying frustrated people allegedly armed with knives and axes from the villages of Atchin, Walarano and Vao to confront Chief Aisen to remove the namele leaves.

In accordance with respect and custom they killed a pig in Chief Aisen’s nasara before he removed the namele leaves from the terminal and declared that Air Vanuatu can resume flights as of today.

Tension had been building since Monday last week when the custom taboo sign was hanged, forcing all flights to be closed and service delivery to the people in the northern part of the island came to a halt.

It meant all bookings were made and diverted all the way to Lamap airport and the staff arranged necessary transport.

However the landing strip was not closed and Unity airlines provide service otherwise.

From the Police Head quarters in Lakatoro Inspector Robert Boe said police are aware of the situation but chiefs involved have assured that all is now under control and there will be no further demonstrations from their men.

But the discontent gnawing in one side of the party is yet to be laid to rest because the real reasons and demands for putting the namele leaves on the terminal are not yet addressed by the Government.

Meanwhile the Daily Post was told Police Commissioner Lt.Col Bong has assigned a number of Police officers from Lugainville to investigate the 2000 Norsup arson and other issues.

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