19 Apr 2007

Witness stonewalling hampers Vanuatu police investigations into Vila clashes

3:17 pm on 19 April 2007

Vanuatu police say fear of repercussions is preventing many witnesses providing evidence in investigations into last month's violence that left three dead on the edge of Port Vila.

While 108 people have been charged with rioting in relation to the clashes between people of Amrbym and Tanna islands on March 3rd, only one person is facing a murder charge.

The deputy police commissioner, Major Arthur Caulton, says this charge relates to the death of a Tannese, with an Ambrym man the suspect.

Major Caulton says investigations continue into the other alleged murders, of two Ambrym islanders.

He says although police have submitted case files to state prosecutors, it's been revealed that many of those who witnessed the incidents are not opening up.

"Some witnesses are still afraid of repercussions from the Tannese people so it is still not possible for them to provide evidence to the police freely as we would have anticipated."

The 108 people facing rioting charges will appear in the magistrates court in late July.