Dozens Of Houses Burned Down Amid Vanuatu Land Dispute

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Tensions high as case over Malekula land pending

By Thompson Marango

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Feb. 11, 2014) – Around 500 people including women and children have been evacuated from villages and stations around Malua Bay area on Malekula after their homes were burned following a land dispute.

Reports from North West Malekula claim that over 60 houses were burned and villages destroyed since January this year.

So far police have yet to comment on the accident but reliable sources said there is lack of law enforcement in the area since the incident primarily due to poor road conditions sealing off the area from the Lakatoro Police Station.

Approximately 60 houses were burned to the ground by men allegedly armed with guns and knives. The men allegedly travelled to the area from Malo where they currently reside. A case concerning ownership of the land in dispute is understood be pending before the court.

"A report was made to the police at Lakatoro right after the incident of shooting and damage to property, however, the police did not report to the site to investigate and make proper reports for necessary action to be taken," stated a concerned resident of the affected area.

"On 27th January 2014, the same group now comprised of a member of 12 arrived again in that area fully armed with knives and guns and set fire to houses in 3 villages, namely Malua Bay main station, Malua Bay Naraside River and Alpalack Village.

There are alleged instances of shooting by both parties with no information of casualties. Tension in the area is still believed to be very high with the security and safety of the people in the areas being a major concern.

"Victims fled and now still live in the bush for a week with no proper shelter, bedding, clothes, cooking utensils, access to communication transport etc.

"The police authorities in Lakatoro, Malekula and Port Vila have been informed of the situation well in advance, and to date there is still no response to the situation. It seems that the law and order enforcement authorities are reactive rather than proactive to the reports provided to them and the situation is worsening.

"On behalf of the homeless victims of the area, we are calling on the authorities concerned and still waiting for a response team to stabilize the situation and maintain law and order as soon as possible."

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