by Allanah Leahy – EM TV Online
Twenty people have been arrested over the double hanging of two men accused of sorcery on the island of Île Akam (Akam Island) located in Malampa, Vanuatu.
Chiefs and church pastors are among the community allegedly responsible for the hangings which occurred in mid-November this year. Police are treating the hangings as a homicide.
Editor of the Vanuatu Independent, Tony Wilson told the ABC that over 40 people consisting of women, children and village elders allegedly witnessed the incident. The sorcery-related double hanging is believed to be the first of its kind in Vanuatu.
A week after the hangings, Vanuatu MP and former finance minister, Willie Jimmy called for witchcraft to be punishable by the death penalty so as to implicate those offenders intending to kill people accused of sorcery.
“We have to make [a] law for this, because otherwise people will coordinate to hang and kill other people innocently and we don’t want that to continue to happen in these communities,” he told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat program.
General reactions in Vanuatu have been shock and disbelief; speaking on ABC’s Pacific Beat program, human rights activist and chairlady of Vanuatu Women Against Crime and Corruption, Jenny Ligo said:
“The motto of Vanuatu is ‘in God we stand’ and I cannot believe the pastors, church leaders, chiefs are implicated in this issue.”