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East Santo chiefs now have their own police

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CST members of East Santo By Hilaire Bule

The Chiefs and people of East Santo have described the establishment of the Community Safety Team (CST) in their area last week as a milestone.

People from various villages, spanning from Manioc and Sara to Port Olry, gathered at Hog Harbour village to witness the graduation of 19 young men and women recruited as members of the CST last Friday.

The graduation ceremony was attended not only by their chiefs and families but also by the New Zealand (NZ) High Commissioner, Nicola Simmonds, and Police Commissioner, Robson Iavro. Mrs. Simmonds said New Zealand believes in maintaining peace and unity within the community through a traditional governing system. She said it is important for communities to uphold their traditional laws, such as land laws.

Commissioner Iavro explained that CST is a community-based policing concept currently being implemented by the Vanuatu Police Force (VPF) within communities.

“We trained and equipped them. They became our eyes and ears in the community,” Commissioner Iavro said. He mentioned that CSTs have already been established in South Santo, West Coast, and now East Santo, marking the third area to benefit from the program. Additionally, CSTs have been established in TORBA Province and Pentecost in PENAMA Province, realising the importance of their roles in rural communities.

Commissioner Iavro expressed gratitude for New Zealand’s support in decentralising policing efforts. CST members are tasked with assisting in the implementation and enforcement of local by-laws.

Last Friday’s graduation for the young CST members in the East Santo area also marked a historic moment for the chiefs as they officially launched their by-laws for the first time. Chief Joel Path, a leader of Hog Harbour village since 2020, acknowledged the challenges they have faced. However, with their newly established by-laws and CST, they can now improve their roles and responsibilities.

Chief Path said the people of East Santo can now respect their chiefs, considering them as cornerstones of the community. He said the common perception of chiefs as ordinary individuals, only recognised when problems arise. Chief Path expressed gratitude for the New Zealand government’s funding, facilitating the decentralisation of police work through the establishment of CST directly within communities.

The chief explained that, with the establishment of CST, chiefs now have their own police force responsible for investigating and reporting back to them. This approach allows chiefs to address suspected offenders and apply appropriate punishments through their by-laws more efficiently.

The Chairman of the Council of Chiefs of East Santo, Chief Franco Warsal, noted that the one-week training for chiefs and CST members had provided them with valuable knowledge. Chief Warsal appealed to the police not to abandon them but to ensure continued follow-up on the implementation of the chiefs’ by-laws and the work of the CST.

Source: VDP

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