Pacific News Minute: Vanuatu Volcano Settles, Refugees Head Home

Oct 24, 2017

Satellite image of Vanuatu
Credit Wikimedia Commons

The Manaro volcano in Vanuatu has settled and 11,000 people evacuated late last month are headed home. We have details from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

The improvised evacuation took three days, as a motley fleet of boats and aircraft ferried the people of Ambae to safety on the nearby islands of Espiritu Santo, Pentacost and Maewo.

Now, the government hopes for a more orderly process to take everybody back. Geology and Mines Minister Ralph Regenvanu said the police would be in charge; 'No one is supposed to move on their own.”

Responding to criticism that the evacuation had been too hasty, Regenvanu told reporters, “We took the decision that it’s better to be safe than sorry, and indications have come that the volcano has now been able to vent, which has released the pressure.”

Meanwhile, all of the members of Vanuatu’s parliament found guilty of corruption and bribery charges two years ago have now been released from prison. Ringleader Moana Carcasses was the last to be set free after serving half of his four year sentence. In 2015, Carcasses handed out $324,000 to convince 13 colleagues to cross the aisle, which toppled the government; Carcasses became the new Deputy Prime Minister.

After the scheme was uncovered, Parliamentary speaker Marcellino Pipite set off a constitutional crisis when, with the President out of the country, he used temporary presidential powers to pardon himself and the others. On his return, a furious President Baldwin Lonsdale overturned the pardons. Under Vanuatu’s Leadership code, the convicted politicians cannot stand for office again until 2025.