The threat of COVID-19 has placed Vanuatu’s Melanesian values at a crossroad, now leaders of this great nation are left to decide whether the safety of its people is more important against maintaining our traditional principals, or can they co-exist?

In February Vanuatu rescued five Solomon Islanders who drifted close to Maewo, this temporary adoption of the five showed the region that there are some things that the pandemic cannot dictate – our humanity.

The five left in March but April had its own trials for the country. INGE KOSAN arrived and camped for 14 days which was filled with investigations, fear perceptions, growing anxieties and topped-off with a 3-day lockdown.

The scene was set for Vanuatu to display once more what it did for the Solomon Islanders, yet this time it was for the international community.

Being a member state of the International Maritime Organization meant Vanuatu had a sense of responsibility in the matter, but two weeks later the UK-flagged vessel left.

Should the country have isolated them, continued testing and declare themselves custodians of the 12 at the expense of the national COVID allowance? This would show the international community that Vanuatu, as small as it is, is always willing to help in any way possible, further solidifying our Melanesian values and displaying on a global scale that Vanuatu is independent enough to care of others and keep its citizens safe in the process.

But this didn’t happen and the crew left, were rejected by Solomon Islands and landed in Brisbane.

For the safety of Vanuatu citizens, the Pacific hospitality which once enticed tourists is no longer present and Vanuatu is leaning towards a realist country and further away from liberalism after living in a COVID-era for two years.

Moral obligations, Melanesian values and humanitarian duty seemed to becoming non-existent in the country as the borders continue to remain closed, the only question is, when they do open, how much of our ‘Kastom’ identity will we have lost? Will Vanuatu recognize itself at 41? And what message are we sending to the international community?

From the Newsroom

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