Chiefs propose ‘New Ambae’ o

“We the chiefs of Ambae agree that if the Government wants to relocate our people elsewhere, it has to be to Santo because it is the biggest island in the country and we would call the place ‘New Ambae”.

Ambae Paramount Chief John Tarilama makes the statement on his return to Port Vila after the chiefs of Ambae took part in a custom ceremony with the Sanma Council of Chiefs in Luganville last week.

The Malvatumauri facilitated the ceremony to apologise to the chiefs and people of Santo with one pig following negative comments on Facebook against the people of Santo in the wake of the Manaro volcanic eruption and evacuation to and from Santo.

Chief Tarilama says the chiefs of Ambae gave one pig to the Malvatumauri and Government to thank them for their leadership.

“We took our responsibility in our hands to prove to the chiefs and people of Santo that we were remorseful for the irresponsible behaviour of young people, by giving one pig to Sanma Provincial Government and the fourth pig went to Chairman of Tabwemasana Council of Chiefs, specifically to ask him to agree to provide land for the people of Ambae to settle on.

“In my speech I said, ‘I heard your voice at the end of last year when my people were evacuated to Santo. At the time you promised to allocate land for them to settle on. I am following up on this and now I would like to ask you to kill this pig to open the road for us to dialogue on your generosity, we are looking at a long term arrangement”. Chief Tarilama says he said.

The Government has divided the evacuation of the people of Ambae this time in three stages; first to safe zones on Ambae, second from July to December for people to evacuate to Maewo, Pentecost or Santo, and from December to 2020 for people to move out permanently which is what the chiefs are looking for to provide a spirit of assurance for their people.

The Chairman of Tabwemasana Council of Chiefs did kill the animal and said his promise “is alive”. He invited the chiefs of Ambae to his office and assured them that that his Sanma Council of Chiefs is writing a letter to the Government to grant it the right to start the process and set the ball rolling. “Even I personally went to see the potential land boundary which is a large flat area of land and I was happy with it. It has enough place to accommodate the people of North, South, East and West Ambae in their respective areas”, he said.

Asked about water, he said it is not far from the Sarakata Hydro Power Plant. “They could connect water and light to the area easily”, he added.

Regarding the nearby islands of Maewo and Pentecost he said they are far too small and located too close to Ambae to escape the Manaro volcanic ash fall.

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