Mass Arrests Expected Following Inter-Island Violence In Vanuatu

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Villagers injured, houses burnt in conflict between Lamap, Avok Islands

By Godwin Ligo

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Nov. 11, 2013) – A massive arrest is expected to take place in South Malekula following the recent conflict between the people of Lamap and Avok Island that ended with houses being burnt down and people being injured.

A police detachment from Malampa provincial center in Lakatoro should arrive in Lamap today, subject to weather conditions and the level of the Pankumu River, which held up the detachment yesterday. The second Vanuatu Patrol Boat, the RVS Turoroa, is heading to the area to transfer suspects to Luganville, Santo.

Samuel Pakoa, the Deputy Commissioner of police, who is also commander of the northern area and is based in Luganville, told the Daily Police by phone yesterday that the arrests will include suspects involved in the arson attacks that led to houses on Avok Island being burnt down, those involved in fights which resulted in many people being injured, and some people who were embroiled in the previous problems with the associated case of a deceased young man whose families said had died as a result of witchcraft or black magic.

"There will be many arrests made of suspects in all these issues. They will be brought to Luganville on Santo because the jail at Lakatoro on Malekula does not have the capacity to hold many people," Pakoa said.

He confirmed that the situation on the ground has returned to normal after the incident, when the police detachment from Lakatoro was sent to the area to quell the situation.

Asked about the number of suspects to be arrested and transported to Luganville, the Commander North said he did not have an exact figure at this stage, but could confirm there would be a large number. He said once in Santo, police will carry out investigations into the arson and the fight that caused so many injuries, and would look into the reasons behind the whole conflict between the two groups as well.

"Investigations will take place and charges will be laid against those suspects before the court for hearing," Pakoa told the Daily Post.

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