4 Aug 2006

Vanuatu police remove five family members from Luganville to try and ease violent clashes

5:57 pm on 4 August 2006

Paramilitary police are being deployed in Vanuatu in a bid to quell fighting between rival groups in the country's second largest town of Luganville.

Police arrested five members of a family on Santo who are seen as ringleaders and evacuated them to Port Vila by air.

The acting police commissioner, Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Caulton, says fighting broke out between members of the Ulas family and villagers from Sara during independence celebrations last week.

Lt Col Caulton says villagers took revenge after one of them was hospitalised with serious injuries.

He says police evacuated the five in a bid to ease tensions.

"We decided to evacuate the family Ulas from Luganville due to the fact that during the negotiation period neither of the party agreed to settling the dispute by way of police dealing with the matter or by customary ceremony."

A delegation from Port Vila, headed by the Internal Affairs Minister, George Wells, is now trying to resolve what is an ongoing problem.

But eyewitnesses say an inter-island ship has already left Santo for Paama Island.

The tension has closed most of the schools in Luganville.

Santo was the scene of a rebellion which threatened the country's independence in 1980.