Head of State President, Obed Moses Tallis symbolised his walk in custom to enter the Nakamal of the Malvatumuari National Council of Chiefs last Friday, by laying down a chiefly custom mat and a mini tamtam both wrapped in namele leaves in front of the President of the Malvatumauri, Chief Mol Torvaka Lima Tirsupe, at the entrance to the Nakamal to assure his host he and his entourage arrived in peace.
The Head of State’s visit began with an introduction to the general interior, a visit to the Sacred Council Chamber and an introduction to the Customary Land Management Office, before he accepted a list of Malvatumauri concerns in Chief Tirsupe’s Office.
This was followed by a rare exchange of views between the Head of State, his entourage and the Malvatumauri Executive.
“For the Government to give them (chiefs) Vt250,000 at the end of five years is a mockery of their responsibility and leadership,” Chief Tirsupe said.
President Tallis on 14 former MPs: “A case is currently before the court so we will need to await the completion of the case before any attempt to look into the need to clean the State Office through custom”.
On the call for review of Constitution: “When i was still in my other post (as pastor), i heard of a review committee working on the Constitution but to this day my Office is still waiting for the result of the said review, your concerns are mine also”.
On custom law: “I think this is true. We have slightly different custom laws on differnt islands. I wonder if those custom laws which are similar could be compiled to become our National Custom Laws”.
On concern over 14 former MPs: “While you have expressed your view on your side, my Office is considering the other side of it, to analyse what it has to do when the current case before the court is completed”.
On custom law versus modern law: “I understand your concerns because custom law has a vital role to play in our society. If we are not careful, western culture could take over our traditional way of life and we would not know how to turn”.
On chief’s gratuity: “It makes sense and perhaps we could approach Government with the concern. We’ve just returned from Ambrym last week and it was through chiefs that people gathered to welcome us”.
Malvatumauri Executive Member, Chief Isaac Worwor said the case still remains with Malvatumauri to carry out a reconciliation ceremony when the court case is over.
“Regarding Chief’s Day when we proclaim that the country operates from three pillars then Government should allocate funds for fair celebrations in all island councils of chiefs”, Chief Worwor suggested.
He said Chief’s Day is the equivalent to the Nation’s Anniversary. “To compare the gratuities of MPs after four years is that MPs get paid Vt5 million for four years while chiefs get Vt250,000 for five years so there is a clear unfairness in the amounts involved”, Chief Worwor said.
Executive Member, Chief Jimmy Meameadola raised an additional item for all newly sworn in foreign diplomats to also pay a courtesy call on the President of the Malvatumauri after presenting their Credentials to the Head of State.
State Office Senior Official, Peter Bong said it would be an administrative matter for the Malvatumauri to consult with the Department of Foreign Affairs on the proposal, as it would not require any amendment of the law.
He also cautioned against any direction regarding the 14 former MPs now until the current cause is over.
Bethuel Solomon of the State Office welcomed the rare opportunity allowed by Malvatumauri for the two sides to sit and discuss national matters of concern in an amicable environment in the Office of the President of the Malvatumauri.
“Such a meaningful exchange of views and opinions on concerns of national interests should be encouraged by both sides,” he concluded.
The Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs has been operating successfully since 1980 with five members of staff; the President, Chief Executive Officer, Secretary, driver and cleaner.
Meanwhile it controls (through the Customary Lands Management Office) all lands in the country and upholds peace and unity for all.