Chief Tarilama wants Vanuatu Head of State


Lobbying for Vanuatu’s top constitutional post has started, months before the term of the current Head of State, Pastor Obed Moses Tallis ends.

A high-ranking chief from the island of Ambae, Chief John Tarilama, believes it is the turn of his island to hold the top constitutional post in the Republic of Vanuatu. Chief Tarilama told Daily Post that he has the support of his people for that position.

The chief said following this support, he has already written a letter of interest the Prime Minister, Bob Loughman, Deputy Prime Minister, Ishmael Kalsakau, the Leader of the Opposition, Ralph Regenvanu and several Members of Parliament (MPs).

“Those leaders are my people,” he said.

Chief Tarilama said so far, the past head of states were politicians and church leaders, and it is time now for a chief to become President of the Republic of Vanuatu.

He said the island of Motalava in Banks has been given already that position which the election of late Father Baldwin Lonsdale, Pentecost with Father John Bani, Ambrym with Pastor Obed Moses Tallis, Emae with Pastor Kalomoana Fred Timakata, Efate with Ati Georges Sokomanu, Tanna with Iolu Johnson Abil and Jean-Marie Leye from Aneityum.

Sokomanu was the first Head of State after Vanuatu gained its political independence from Great Britain and France in 1980.

Chief Tarilama said the past head of states originated from political and church backgrounds, but the opportunity was never given to the chiefs who are a symbol of peace and unity in their respective islands, communities and areas. They are also neutral.

The only differences are that a Head of State is elected by the Electoral College which comprises 52 MPs and six presidents of provincial governments, and the role is governed by the national Constitution, whereas chiefs are to kill pigs for their ranks and they are governed by unwritten rules of custom.

Chief Tarilama said he believes that he can hold that position, following his contribution of maintaining unity and peace within his people on Ambae and in Port Vila, where he resides and as a member for Port Vila Council of Chiefs.

“On Ambae, there are 5 ‘kings’ and I am one them,” he said. “I reached the last rank in our custom which is called Hala Hangavulu.

“The first is Moli, which is a first chief grade on Ambae to Hala Hangavulu, I killed almost over 100 pigs with tusks. When you reach Hala Hangavulu, you are considered a king because chiefs gave you tradition costumes like a king’s costumes.”

He said currently West and East of Ambae already have the position of state ministers, particularly Ministers Jay Ngwele and James Bule.

Thus, the Head of State position should be given the people of the northern part of the island. Chief Tarilama said he has already indicated his interest to the two ministers.

He is the first candidate to publicly announce his wish to become the nest Head of State, but Daily Post understands that leaders from Santo are also interested. Santo, Vanuatu’s biggest island has never been offered the position of the Head of State.

President Tallis’ mandate will end in July.