Man-power constructed road officially in Vanuatu

A man-power constructed road at Ikutumhian village, south East Tanna that was built using garden tools has officially been opened.

The road was opened by the MP for Tanna and Parliamentary Secretary to the Office of the Prime Minister, Johnny Koanapo Rasou on Thursday, 6 July.

It was a milestone achievement that came with determination that saw men and women led by the tribal Chief Namel using gardening tools such as spades, shovels, crowbars, axes and bush knives to clear the bush, dig out big trees/coconuts and dig a feeder road that stretches about one kilometre up the hill looking down at the Yasur volcano. The road will not be easy for toddler drivers as it winds itself up the hill passing steep slopes and passing through the villages in the area.

One would think that the Tannese had only dug a road using gardening tools in North Efate way back in the 1940s, but this power and determination is still a commonly accepted style of development on the island today. There are other roads in the area that have been dug using garden tools.

It is again another testimony of the Tanna people’s determination and bravery to build their own roads after their cries have been neglected by the successive governments since 1980.

Chief Namel has said requests made to the Tafea Province Council and the national government seemed to have fallen on deaf ears and nobody seems to care or show any sign of recognition and respect to our requests.

The chief said instead of waiting for assistance, he gathered his men and women and told them to start work or it will never happen.

He said he understands that minister responsible for Infrastructure, Jotham Napat, also an MP for Tanna, will look more towards helping his voters or his respective community first.

“Let us build it ourselves. For how many more of our pregnant mothers will deliver in these valleys as we try to reach the hospitals carrying them on our shoulders before we can convince any rational thinking person that we are in need of roads and government services? How many more sick and old people must we carry on our shoulders, even in rainy days, for someone to see that we have a genuine need? We have been the forgotten ones”, the chief asks.

“Today we are delighted that one of our very own child in this area, Hon MP J Koanapo has come to represent the Government to officiate the opening of this road. We know this government at least cares to give us some attention. This is the first time we are receiving a Government delegation in our area. And this road is known has ‘Suwatuk Kunghen’ literally meaning God’s road, implying that God has helped us to build this road using our own hands.”, says Chief Namel.

The MP for Tanna, Johnny Koanapo was asked by Prime Minister Charlot Salwai to honour the invitation of the people to officiate the opening of this new manpower road.

“We are today witnessing what we know as people’s determination to power on in spite of the severe lack of Government support to them. I am here today representing the government of the day to celebrate with you another historical achievement that is gained through a strong determination of what we as a people can do to help the government instead of waiting on the Government to help us”, the government representative told the people.

“And as I officiate this road opening today, I am reminded of the rare strength of the people of Tanna who had contributed immensely to the road developments in this island through sacrifice, even in Port Vila, in particular digging the road in Paunangisu, North Efate. Today the people of North Efate call it the ‘Tanna road’, because it was built by Tannese. Such acts are a testimony of the trademark of our Tanna people who will not sit and complain about the government.”

“We as a people of this island and of this nation, have shown that when we want something, we will do everything necessary to get it. Tanna in this election voted for change and we mean it. This is the kind of citizenry this government wants to encourage,” Hon Rasou stated in his statement to more than 300 people who joined in with custom dances and John Frum to celebrate their long awaited for development need”, said the Parliament Secretary.   

The Member of Parliament for Tanna Constituency hails from an area where it has become difficult for people to know they are obliged to vote for a government. The South Eastern and Southern part of the island is an area where people have asked over the past three decades why they have to vote. And so people have become resilient even without the government’s assistance or service.

The population in the area have asked and have been assured by Mr  Rasou that this time it will be different. “It is now time for the government to pay attention to the forgotten places and areas around Vanuatu. And my presence here today is a testimony that the Salwai Government wants a change in the way governance and service delivery is provided to the people. The fact that you have not waited for the government to send machines to open up new roads in this area, shows our resilience and determination, that we the people of South East Tanna do not sit around and ask what the Government can do for us but what we can do for this nation, thus reflecting the meaning of independence. This is the spirit that yumi, yumi ol man blong Vanuatu throughout this nation must take,” said PS Rasou.

He said it saddens him when visiting places in the inland, especially in the south east, south and south west, when people were reminding him that this is the first time to receive a Government delegate or even a member of parliament to their community. “It is the sad reality. But I am glad that Tannese voted clearly during the last snap elections that they want change on the island. And this change means, we have to start seriously thinking about a new style of politics that serves the interest of the people and not a kind of self-serving politics,” says Mr Rasou.

 A petition was given to the government to assist in complementing their work by building a road through the inland from South East to the West, a mountain path (Kastom rod) that was used by the Missionaries in the good old days called the Melbourne road.   

Others who also witnessed the opening are the Tafea Secretary General, Tafea PWD operations manager and the manager of cooperatives as well as political advisors of the parliamentary secretariat to the prime minister’s office. The visit of the government delegation is historical since the area has never since independence received any Government delegation or even have a Government vehicle simply go to the villages.



Harold Obed