Changes To Vanuatu Malvatumauri Council Needed: Chiefs

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30 leaders call for amendments to allow greater recognition

By Jonas Cullwick

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Oct. 8, 2013) – Thirty chiefs representing the Vaturisu Council of Chiefs of Efate and offshore islands, and the Port Vila town council of chiefs, have said Vanuatu’s Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs Act needs amending to give chiefs greater recognition.

These chiefs participated in a consultation meeting on the Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs Act at Epau village, East Efate, last Friday.

The meeting was part of a review process of the Malvatumauri Act. The full-day session was organized by the Malvatumauri office in Port Vila, to enable members of the two chiefly bodies to express their views about the law governing the role of the national council of chiefs and what changes they would like to see "to give the Malvatumauri Act more meat." A general view from those present at the meeting was that the Malvatumauri Act needed to be changed to ensure the important role of chiefs in the everyday life of the communities of the country is better valued.

Over the last 33 years of independence, the government has needed the chiefs’ cultural, traditional and peacemaking roles at countless occasions, but this service has never been credited with the value it deserved. Many feel that the important role of the chiefs was recognized in the country’s constitution, when it featured in the supreme national code, before other important institutions such as the parliament and government. However, this recognition in the constitution has never translated into a reality within the formal governance structure of the country, seen through the legislative, executive and judiciary bodies.

In chapter 5 of the constitution, articles 29 through 32 talk about the national council of chiefs. Article 29 talks about the formation of the national council of chiefs. Article 30 sets out the functions of the national council of chiefs as the guardian of the country’s culture, customs, traditions and languages.

Paragraph 2 of article 30 states that the national council of chiefs may be consulted on any question, particularly any question relating to tradition and custom, and particularly in connection to any bill put before parliament. Article 31 is on the organization of the role of the council of chiefs and article 32 outlines the privileges of the members of the council. Views expressed at Epau show that many felt that the constitution needed to be reviewed to give value and meaning to the role of the chiefs in governance.

Arthur Faerua, the consultant tasked with assisting with the process, says the Malvatumauri is engaged in a round of consultations as part of an institutional review of the national chiefly organization. He said consultations have been held in various centres around the country and similar meetings in New Caledonia have also taken place. Faerua added that from the consultations, a draft paper will be put to the members of the Malvatumauri national council of chiefs, when they meet in Port Vila later this month, for consideration and direction.

The participants in the meeting - including the chairman of Vaturisu, Chief Manlaewia, and the vice president of the Port Vila council of chiefs, Chief Aiden Lawrence - were welcomed by the chief and village council of Epau. The hosts were members of the football club of the village.

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