Vanuatu kastom is alive and thriving in 2016, as displayed here in these images and video taken yesterday at the inauguration of the new paramount chief of Mangaliliu, Mormor (the fourth in the lineage).
Photography by Adam Trau and Rex Turi.
Chief Mormor of Mangaliliu and Cultural Centre Curator Marcelin Ambong today both described the leasing of 2,300 hectares of Mangaliliu and Lelepa land to Kalorib Poilapa of Mele Village as “daylight robbery”. The area is larger than Port Vila.
The Minister of Lands completely disregarded over two years of work on the part of the chiefs and people of Lelepa and Mangaliliu to map and locate the resources of the huge area so that an appropriate community lease could be issued to protect their land against speculators.
Minister Steven Kalsakau, however, got in first and stole it from them. The new lease documents prove it. If this happened anywhere else in the world the Minister would be dismissed and put in prison. The vast area was leased to Poilapa, rumoured to be a proxy for big agricultural interests, for the pitiful sum of Vt 2,500,000, or just Vt 1,087 per hectare.
Lands Minister Steven Kalsakau has approved a lease over large area of the customary lands of Lelepa and Mangaliliu (Lelema) to a Mele man for 75 years, against the wishes of the customary land owners. Mangaliliu Chief Mormor said at the time of the creation of a customary lease application for their own lands, back in May: “We want a custom land lease ourselves, over our land, to protect ourselves and our land”. The North Efate land owners now have to protect themselves from the Minister of Lands. Daily Post leads with this story today. It covers how the chiefs of North Efate wrote to the Minister requesting a halt to all further land dealings in their area after nearly two years of consultation and mapping and for six community leases to be issued so their lands could truly remain theirs in perpetuity.
The Land Reform Act [Cap 123] gives the Minister for Lands the power to approve leases on behalf of customary owners if the land is in dispute. However, the Lelema lands are not under dispute and are unalienated. Minister Kalsakau here is acting in breach of the Act and against the letter of the Constitution. There is speculation too that the Mele lessee is just a front man for powerful foreign business interests.