Throughout the predawn hours of May 28, natives walked toward the administrative center of their island, Espiritu Santo. From plantations, from the bush, from the fishing beaches, some starting before the South Pacific sunrise, they walked toward Santo town. Some dressed in shorts and T-shirts, some wearing only the traditional loin cloths, and led by their charismatic leader, Jimmy Moly Stevens, they arrived outside Santo brandishing spears, bows, machetes, and their Na-Griamel flag. Six hundred Melanesians talked about freedom—the freedom to do business with anybody they choose, freedom to wear the clothes they want to wear, freedom to earn and spend their own money; the freedom to live their own lives.
Joined by two-score French expatriates wielding shotguns forbidden to non-Europeans, the group started toward police headquarters. When the police tried to use their radios to warn others, they found their radio bands filled with the whistling and shouting of native rebels. Elsewhere on the island, 60 riot police had been arrested and were locked up, "having a picnic and a basketball game," reported Stevens. Amid shouts of "Individual rights for all!" the unlikely revolutionaries seized the government offices and threw the French and British Condominium police in jail. Not with a bang but a whimper from the European rulers of this mostly black nation, self-rule came to the new country of Vemarana, a federation of the northern-most of a group of South Pacific islands.
This island group is the New Hebrides, located a thousand miles north of New Zealand and half that distance west of Fiji. James Michener's Tales of the South Pacific was written about these islands. The real Bali Ha'i was Aoba island, directly east of Espiritu Santo. Pentecost Island, a little to the southeast, is the home of the land-divers—people who build towering bamboo platforms, tie vines to their legs, and dive to the earth.
The press has responded to Vemarana's bid for independence with headlines like "Trouble in Paradise" and "Some Enchanted Evening, a Tax Haven Was Born." Noting the connections between the independence movement and a group of American libertarians, many journalists have hypothesized a "right-wing led revolt" attempting to establish a "Switzerland of the Pacific"—although the New Hebrides has been a tax haven for many years. A thinly veiled outrage about "outside intervention" has alternated with condescending humor about a sort of comic opera of buffoons led by fools. It is hard to imagine the same sort of media reaction to other revolutions in other parts of the world—in Yemen, Eritrea, or Angola.
Neither these reporters nor anyone else can begin to understand the new nation of Vemarana without a little of the cultural background of the New Hebrides. The pro-Western, individualist independence movement, unique among the emerging nations of the Third World in this century, has a deep cultural basis extending into the 1800s.
The New Hebrideans are Melanesians, a black ethnic group quite distinct from the Polynesians most people associate with the South Pacific. The islands were traditional hunting grounds for Australian slavers recruiting New Hebrideans for their plantations, a practice that didn't completely end until the turn of the century. In defense, the natives took to killing and sometimes eating white men who ventured onto the islands. Today, they are still aware of a morality that allowed the involuntary servitude of humans, and a hatred of all coercion is evident.
Early missionaries were misidentified as slavers and often killed. When they finally succeeded in establishing themselves in the mid-1800s, the Anglicans fought paganism and papists while the Catholics fought heathenism and heretics. French and British trading interests followed in the wake of the missionaries. A tenuous working relationship between the two countries was established in 1887 with the formation of a Joint Naval Commission to oversee European interests in the islands. Little was done for the New Hebrideans' interests.
In 1906 in the New Hebrides, colonialism took a unique form. The British and French set up the Condominium, a Gilbert-and-Sullivan government with two completely separate legal systems based on entirely different traditions (English common law and the Napoleonic Code), to exist alongside a third system of natives' common law and courts. A Joint Condominium Court would hear appeals, deal with cases involving natives and whites or French and British, and handle most land cases. For the British and French, there were separate police forces, separate administrations, separate anthems, separate flags—but for the New Hebrideans there was nothing, not even passports. Nowhere else in the world has a whole group of people been kept stateless.
Out of all this, the New Hebrideans have gained a unique perspective on the nature of government. They have learned that if the government doesn't give you what you want, you get it yourself. The general attitude among the natives, especially in the bush, is that they would be better off without interference of any kind. Even Europeans in the New Hebrides refer to the Condominium as the pandemonium.
The Condominium has unwittingly educated its natives on the nature of money, also. New Hebrides francs, Australian dollars, gold coins, postage stamps, and circular pig tusks are all used as currency. Natives observe inflated currencies fall in value relative to gold with no delusion that one national currency is in their interests.
THE AMERICAN INFLUENCE
World War II had a tremendous effect on the New Hebrides. American equipment was poured into the islands to build up one of the largest American bases in the Pacific theater. Unlike the French and British residents, GIs were generally egalitarian in their social attitudes. The natives liked the soldiers, who shared their food and usually behaved as friends. (Just a few weeks ago a group of American Seabees who had been stationed on the island of Espiritu Santo during the war collected and sent a contribution to independence leader Jimmy Stevens to assist with his cause.)
Of all the islanders, perhaps most affected by the American occupation were the natives on the island of Tanna. According to local religious belief, a messiah would come to deliver them from the government and the missionaries. After the troops left, the mythological character became "Jon Frum" (John from America?), a black soldier who would return with jeeps, guns, fly and mosquito abatement, K-rations, and uniforms for everybody. Though Tanna is the stronghold of this "cargo cult," most of the islands have a pronounced preference for America.
(Like Espiritu Santo, Tanna and several other islands attempted revolts in late May and early June. The world press and the ruling socialist Vanuaaku party were quick to cast the Tannese rebels as fanatics. Yet a Vanuaaku leader, Barak Sope, writing about the Jon Frum movement a few years ago, said: "The people who make up the leadership are not 'idiots' as many government personnel tend to say. The leadership has ideologies that appeal to the local people. They have expressed the grievances of the Tannese people in a way that no one else has been able to." But that understanding of the Tannese is no longer evident in the Vanuaaku party—not since the Tannese people rejected their socialist dreams by revolting.)
During their stay on the islands, American forces developed land for wartime use with the promise that it would be given back to the natives. Much of this was never registered, however, because of a tradition of oral contracts. The British-French Condominium government has had jurisdiction over land disputes, and its legal proceedings often baffle the New Hebrideans, who have a sophisticated system of land rights (see box, p. 27) and a deeply held respect for all property rights. "It's theirs; it's not yours," is a New Hebridean adage.
After the Americans departed at the end of the war, the natives of the New Hebrides grew increasingly restless under the cultural impositions of the Europeans. The American departure also meant a loss of jobs. Condominium government policies prevented economic development of the islands by foreigners; many young natives in search of work had to go to New Caledonia, 500 miles away, to work in the mines. By the late 1960s, the natives were thinking about independence. With colonialism winding down across the world, the British and French were willing, although neither power wished to risk stepping out and leaving the other in place. So for several years independence was stalemated by the "After you," "No, after you," syndrome.
Finally, the Condominium agreed on a plan. There would be a series of provisional elections leading up to independence, scheduled for July 30, 1980. The structure put in place would be a strong central government, to unify the New Hebrides's many islands. This setup appealed to the socialist Vanuaaku party, which has been an on-again-off-again victor in the elections that began in 1975. But it did not match much of the natives' tradition nor their experience with government via the Condominium. Antifederalist attitudes that would rival those of Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson have nurtured the growth of independence movements in the New Hebrides. Foremost among them is Na-Griamel, based in the northern islands that have joined together as Vemarana and declared their commitment to individual liberty.
While the Na-Griamel independence movement led by Jimmy Stevens is of grass-roots Melanesian origin, it is unlikely that it would have gotten as far as fast without the support of Mike Oliver, a Carson City, Nevada, real estate developer, and some other like-minded Americans. It is this relationship that so disturbs the world media, the state departments of the United States and Great Britain, and the Vanuaaku party in the New Hebrides.
Ironically, no one seems to be disturbed by the fact that Vanuaaku itself has received funds and advice from several outside sources. The Australian Communist Party prints the Vanuaaku paper. New Zealand and Australian trade unions have given the party money, presumably because they'd rather see socialism this close to home than an unrestricted economic area that could draw industry and jobs away from their control. More significantly, the World Council of Churches (WCC) has put much more money into Vanuaaku than Americans have reportedly put into the Na-Griamel movement or the Vemarana federation. The Geneva wire service EPS reported the first WCC donation of $10,000 as far back as 1976. Yet Vanuaaku's connections with international organizations receive no mention when Jimmy Stevens's supporters are "exposed."
Why is the World Council of Churches taking sides in the New Hebrides? Most of the Vanuaaku party's native opponents are themselves Christians. Yet many of them will not use the force of law to impose Christian behavior (such as a dress code or Sunday shop closing), and this may help explain the Council's support of the authoritarian Vanuaaku. Or perhaps the party has pull because it is headed up by Father Walter Lini and other native Anglican priests. But none of this may be needed to explain the Council's allegiance. It has backed the radical communist Mugabe over the moderate Muzorewa in Zimbabwe and chose a particularly violent group to back in Angola.
Tanzania is the model for reorganization embraced by Father Lini, president of Vanuaaku and the man elected last November—amid charges of vote fraud—to head the post-independence New Hebrides government. Tanzania is perhaps the purest example of socialism in the world today. Its leaders seem to be sincere socialists; they do not have the palatial homes, expense accounts, or other perquisites claimed by leaders in many socialist countries. As President Carter noted of his friend and pen-pal, Tanzanian president of 19 years Julius Nyerere, he "has forgone material wealth and ease in a sacrificial way for his own people." Sacrifice, it is evident, is more important than success to the two presidents, because Tanzania is the welfare case of the world, receiving $400-$500 million a year in foreign aid (which Nyerere calls "a matter of right" and not "of charity").
Since the imposition of Tanzanian socialism in the mid-1960s, the country has moved from relative prosperity to virtual disaster, with industries continuing to fall apart for lack of motivated, trained personnel. The government has resettled 14 million natives to collective villages; only 100,000 of them went voluntarily. The country has one of the worst human rights records of any African nation, according to Amnesty International; one Los Angeles Times African correspondent reported that it holds more political prisoners than the hated "fascist" South Africa. There is no freedom of the press, and televisions that pick up any but official stations are banned. And while Tanzania teeters on the brink of famine, dependent on the rest of the world for handouts, Nyerere has managed to overthrow three neighboring countries' governments.
The economic failure of Tanzania would be worry enough for the New Hebridean rebels. But they have this also to consider: Tanzanian chiefs who opposed Nyerere's socialist rule have been picked up and jailed or have just disappeared altogether.
"LITTLE BIT SCARED"
Pitted against Vanuaaku is an individual rights movement led by Jimmy Moly Stevens. Stevens's father, Tubo, who died about 1931, was three-quarters Tongan and one-quarter Scottish. His mother, from the New Hebrides's Banks Islands remarried later to a Stevens (or Stephens).
Jimmy recalls, "Old Stevens come with whip—Presbyterian teacher, church elder, and everything. I run out. Oh, hard time. Nothing but whip." He says that he was returned by the government once but ran away again when his mother died, going to live with the bush people in the village where he was born. The chief of the village remembered him and, having no male children, raised Jimmy along with three other boys as his sons. It was there that Jimmy learned the rules and subtleties of custom (see box, p. 29).
In 1942 the Americans arrived on Espiritu Santo. Jimmy, like everyone else, was excited. He helped with the cooking for some Marines, learned English, drove a bulldozer, and worked as a translator. After the war Jimmy signed on as an engineer on a commercial ship. He worked several years on the ship until he suffered an injury and checked into a Sydney, Australia, hospital. When he recovered, he sought out the "custom people" of Australia, the natives like himself. He found them in the bush and was shocked to find out that they couldn't go into town without permission and a police escort. Jimmy says, "In my heart, I get feeling must be careful in Santo. Maybe one day happen in Santo. They push us out, take salt water, not have port. I little bit scared—say nothing."
By 1959, back on Espiritu Santo, Jimmy had become suspicious of the natives of Vila, the capital of the New Hebrides and the bureaucratic center of the British-French Condominium government—suspicious that the natives there were enamored with the European aristocratic games of political power. About that time he was involved with a claim struggle over an entire island that the Presbyterian church said was theirs. Stevens helped a native church elder whose family had owned land on the island fight the case, but they eventually lost. The experience added to his distrust of government.
And it was a land dispute that would lead to the first steps toward the new country of Vemarana: the creation of the Na-Griamel movement. In 1962 the disputed title for a large tract of land on Espiritu Santo called Luganville, used by the Americans during the war, was confirmed to the Societé Francaise des Nouvelle-Hebrides (SFNH—a huge French trading company similar to the British East India Company with its early monopoly rights). Chief Buluk, respected leader of one of the largest tribes, and Jimmy organized to resist the decision as a violation of oral contracts governing the land.
In August 1963, 15 villages officially joined as the Na-Griamel movement, named for the sign of the nagria and namele leaves, symbol of female and male, or the mother and father spirits and ancestors. The symbol serves as a combination of a truce sign and peace sign, always honored when used by someone of sufficient custom status. The objectives of the movement were made known in the form of a proclamation, the "Act of the Dark Bush." Buluk and Stevens were elected its leaders.
At the heart of Na-Griamel was a desire to protect native traditions (custom), which the missionaries had always tried to suppress. Because of this, the movement has never been accepted by the two major British churches, the Anglican and the Presbyterian. Native sources report that elders in both churches have gone so far as to preach that "a vote for Na-Griamel is a vote for the devil." But custom is more comprehensive than religion; Na-Griamel also sought to preserve traditional concepts of property rights—the "dark bush" is land claimed by Europeans but as yet uncleared.
By mid-1967 Buluk and Stevens realized that the Condominium government was going to ignore their pleas about the true ownership of the Luganville tract, so they "trespassed," encouraging their followers to occupy over 2,000 acres of the property. (They also established a village near Santo town—Tanafo, sometimes called Vanafo or Fanafo—to serve as headquarters for Na-Griamel.) The Condominium retaliated against Buluk and Stevens with long prison sentences, subsequently reduced to four months for the older Buluk and six months for Stevens.
Jimmy remembers 1968. "Prison! [laughs] Everything on time. If you want butter, get butter. Jam for breakfast. Eat fresh meat twice a day. Instead of scaring people, it looks to me like another trap for native. All time I say I will break through some way.…I ask, 'Please ask Americans [about the land in contention]—don't be fool. Americans can prove with copy of plans from war—which village.'" He was ignored.
After their release, Stevens and Buluk went back to the business of running the Na-Griamel movement and the Luganville settlement, which was a sort of voluntary cooperative. Land was given to any native who would fill the homesteading requirements, pay minimal dues, and help with community services. The movement was gaining supporters from all over the islands. At least two complete villages from other islands were so enthusiastic that they moved, lock, stock, and barrel, to Tanafo.
At first, resistance to the Na-Gramiel movement by the churches was minimal. They didn't seem to notice the organization until about 1970, when, according to Jimmy, "Natives not putting pennies in plate," as they began to pay dues to Na-Griamel.
Europeans and outsiders, while wary of Stevens's evident skills as an organizer, refused to take him seriously as a leader of his people. Typical is the reaction of Charlene Gourguechon, who describes meeting Jimmy in her book, Journey to the End of the World (1974):
With his abundant gray beard and prophet eyes he looked nothing like a New Hebridean. European? Polynesian? Maybe he had some Melanesian blood, but it certainly didn't seem to predominate. An unctuous smile. I studied his face. Was it the look of a sage or a trickster? René introduced us, but the Chief President had to make his own introductions in his own way. "I am Jimmy Tubo Stephens," he laughed haughtily. "You can call me Jimmy," he added with a wink.
He surveyed our film and photography equipment and looked impressed. He knew we were Americans, and that seemed to please him. "I'm going to the UN with our case. I'm sure you can help us."
Stevens made that appeal to the United Nations in 1968 in the form of a petition. It was the first request by native New Hebrideans for independence. He was ignored.
Two years later Jimmy met Mike Oliver. Oliver is a Lithuanian American whose four years in a Nazi concentration camp has added an urgency to his libertarian political beliefs. In 1966 he began writing A New Constitution for a New Country as an example of the way a libertarian society could be governed. It was published in 1968, at which point Oliver started the Capitalist Country Newsletter, outlining plans for a New Country Project—a long-term venture to acquire territory, with full sovereignty, for the establishment of a libertarian, free-enterprise country.
In 1970 Oliver visited Fiji on vacation. Coincidentally, Jimmy Stevens had just been released from a Fijian hospital. Friends of Stevens told Oliver that he should meet Jimmy, and the two hit it off, agreeing on most points of political philosophy. Oliver agreed to visit Stevens again on Espiritu Santo, but he stopped first in Vila, where the district manager of Burns-Philp (the large British trading company, counterpart of the French SFNH) told him that Stevens was a thief and a hypocrite, interested only in getting Oliver's money. When Oliver didn't come around, Stevens was puzzled. A year went by before a French New Hebridean visiting Carson City told Oliver that Burns-Philp held exclusive license to export copra (dried coconut, the New Hebrides's principal export), and that the Na-Griamel movement was fighting the government-created monopoly in the purchase and transportation of copra. Said Oliver with a sneer, "Most of the socialism in the world is bought by big business."
IN SEARCH OF A NEW COUNTRY
From 1970 onward Oliver spent a great deal of time, money, and effort on the New Country Project. Unsuccessful efforts were made on Minerva Reef in the South Pacific and Abaco in the Bahamas.
Minerva Reef, visible only at low tide, was well outside of any national boundaries, lying between the jurisdictions of Fiji and New Zealand. In 1972 Oliver's people built a concrete platform on the reef, hoisted a flag, and claimed sovereignty as a new country. (Their unprecedented claim was backed up by a legal analysis published in the Columbia Law Review.) Plans were drawn up to build an ultramodern sea city capable of maintaining 32,000 people. Several months later the king of Tonga deployed his navy—one gun boat—took over the uninhabited platform, and hoisted the Tongan flag. So much for the Republic of Minerva.
The Abaco project came about when a resident of the Bahamas, 170 miles east of Florida, discovered Oliver's book. The population of Abaco, one of the islands, was mostly dissatisfied with the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) that had come into power in 1967 while the Bahamas was still a British colony. The Abaco separatists contacted Oliver, and he started advising them.
The Abaco Independence Movement (AIM) was announced in August 1973 after a delegation from Abaco had petitioned the Queen unsuccessfully to maintain British colonial status when the rest of the Bahamas went independent—a move that Oliver counseled in order to avoid falling under the jurisdiction of the oppressive PLP. John Hospers, libertarian professor of philosophy, delivered an "economic speech" at the AIM organizing convention in 1974, because the PLP government had forbade him to talk about anything "political." Other libertarians addressed a conference later that year, but Hospers was refused reentry to the country.
It was not PLP maneuvering, however, but internal bickering that killed the Abaco Independence Movement. It degenerated into a home-rule "reform" movement before withering away altogether in 1977.
Oliver's interest in the New Hebrides as a New Country site dates back to 1971, a year after his meeting with Stevens. On a trip to the South Pacific, an associate acquired a large tract of land on Gaua, one of the Banks Islands in the northern part of the archipelago. Even though sovereignty was not part of the deal, Oliver figured that the islands' existing status as a tax haven might be close enough to laissez-faire to meet most of the New Country objectives. But plans to sell lots to New Country Project participants were dashed when the British-French Condominium government enacted new laws dealing with immigration and land ownership by foreigners, making it virtually impossible to subdivide and settle the land.
While the Minerva and Abaco projects were going on, other Project participants remained on the lookout for additional opportunities. In 1974 one of them reported back from a several-month South Pacific expedition with yet another New Hebrides prospect: a plantation owner on Vanua Lava—another of the Banks Islands—reported that the Banks and Torres Islands were ripe for independence. Project participants were guardedly optimistic and sent libertarian writer Robert Poole to the New Hebrides to check out the situation.
After a month on-site, Poole returned with the sad facts: the report was mostly wishful thinking, inspired by the plantation owner's desire to sell Oliver his land. But there were promising groups with a libertarian bent in the New Hebrides, Poole reported: Jimmy Stevens and Na-Griamel on Espiritu Santo, and the Jon Frum movement on Tanna. Poole advised the group to make contact with Stevens; another project participant flew to Santo in June 1975, met with Jimmy, and reported that he seemed to be basically libertarian, the leader of a true indigenous movement, and a man firmly committed to independence.
At that point the New Country Project was given a more formal structure with the incorporation of the nonprofit Phoenix Foundation on June 3, 1975. The name was taken from the mythological bird that resurrects itself from its own ashes—a metaphor for the rebirth of freedom via a new country. Among the board members were psychologist Nathaniel Branden, philosopher John Hospers, retired Air Force officer Hank Phillips, financial writer Harry Schultz, Poole, and Oliver. The purpose of Phoenix was to be a sort of Peace Corps for free enterprise, giving advice and publicity to freedom-oriented independence movements in the Third World.
VANUAAKU VS. NA-GRIAMEL
During the mid-1970s, the Na-Griamel movement's relationship to the French government was undergoing an important change, mostly due to the establishment of the New Hebrides National Party (later to be known as Vanuaaku) in Vila, the British-French administrative center on the southern island of Efate. Their published intent was similar to Na-Griamel's—to preserve custom and move toward independence—but their technique and rhetoric were socialist. The British didn't seem to care, as the British bureaucracy in Vila consisted mostly of the Fabian Socialist sort that helped set the scene for socialist government in most of the ex-British colonies in Africa. Additionally, the British have no real interests in that area of the South Pacific. Once freed of its responsibilities to the Condominium government, Great Britain will be little affected by events in the New Hebrides.
The French, on the other hand, have significant interests in the area. New Caledonia—500 miles to the south—is an important French source of nickel and tin; and the Tahitian tourist industry of French Polynesia is not inconsequential, either. National Party leaders, however, were openly supporting independence groups in New Caledonia that were friendly to the Soviets. The French began to worry about the likelihood of a Soviet base in the New Hebrides if the party took over after independence. French residents of the islands also expressed concern over the racist literature put out by the party, which is considered a "black power" group even by many black New Hebrideans.
Na-Griamel, unlike the National Party, has an explicit open-door policy toward anyone who can help develop the country—including the French. The Na-Griamel symbol itself has a black hand shaking a white hand below the traditional leaves, symbolizing racial harmony. The National Party in November 1975 called for the confiscation of all undeveloped European land without compensation. The Na-Griamel policy, on the other hand, was that if land had been acquired fraudulently or under questionable circumstances, it should be renegotiated between the buyer and seller or their heirs, and a fair market value exchanged.
Against this background, the French government invited a Na-Griamel delegation to Paris for the Bastille Day celebrations in July 1975, a move that lent political respectability to Stevens and his group. Stevens met with French President Giscard D'Estaing, the resident commissioner of France to the New Hebrides, the chief of the French government, and the president of the French Senate.
A month later in municipal elections—the first elections ever held in the New Hebrides—Na-Griamel won 15 of 16 seats on Espiritu Santo, and moderate party allies won two-thirds of the seats in Vila, the center of the Condominium government and the National Party. The statistics are important, for the first national elections three months later varied dramatically. Though observers could not detect any real change in public opinion, the National Party was the firm victor of the November elections for national seats. Jimmy Stevens wrote to Oliver reporting massive election fraud.
Fraud at the ballot box is especially easy in the New Hebrides because of widespread illiteracy. Voters are given their party's cards, which are color-coded. The National Party, drawing much of its support from New Hebrideans who are employed by the government, is in a particularly propitious position to influence the vote. Local papers reported that some areas never received blue Na-Griamel cards or that they were being given out only after payment to a government official, that 12-year-old children were seen voting in some areas, and that little or no security over the ballot boxes themselves was maintained. Stevens was particularly troubled by reported National Party transportation of people from other islands to areas where the party needed votes.
In fact, whenever an election is reported, most New Hebrideans take the results with a grain of salt. As in the United States, some natives refuse to take part in the elections at all, especially those who are strong believers in custom and its tradition of casual, intimate local control of area affairs. Some natives view with alarm any election of a man who would rule them from Vila, not even recognizing the need for national offices. And in fact a native who cannot read must make a leap of faith in order to believe that passports and postage stamps have any real value.
Jimmy demanded new elections, to be preceded by a census of the islands to ensure that there was no interisland cross-over voting. He was ignored. (Only after he led an attempted secession would the Joint Condominium Court find that there had been irregularities in the elections.)
Between the two elections, Jimmy, as head of the Na-Griamel movement, contracted exclusive rights to Mike Oliver to produce and market gold and silver coins bearing Stevens's picture and "Individual Rights for All." The profits from the venture were to be turned back to the Na-Griamel movement for its activities. Jimmy set the end of the year as the date for a unilateral declaration of independence for a group of northern islands and agreed with Oliver on a plan for offering honorary citizenship in the Na-Griamel federation to large contributors to a special fund to be used upon independence.
OPERATION SOUTH PACIFIC
After the controversial November election, the story begins to take on the features of a good movie script, though hardly a Micheneresque musical. Oliver, a group of doctors and dentists interested in starting a clinic in a libertarian country, and a radio technician traveled to Santo to meet with Stevens and other Na-Griamel leaders.
Once in the New Hebrides, Oliver realized that supporters would need a clearer picture of what sort of development would be most practical in the case that a libertarian government were established. He again sought the aid of Robert Poole, asking him to do an economic feasibility study. Poole was unable to go to Santo himself but recruited David Sutton, a libertarian with Marine Corps jungle training who was at the time authoring a book on survival techniques. Besides doing the economic analysis, he was to live with the natives and ascertain whether or not the Na-Griamelians and other pro-independence natives were genuinely dedicated to individual rights or were just following charismatic leaders.
The worry was not completely unfounded. Jimmy Stevens's willingness to use anybody who might be of help to his cause has been criticized by some. Several libertarians interviewed for this article characterized him as a charismatic power-broker who has manipulated some wealthy Westerners for his own ends, playing the British against the French against Mike Oliver and associates. That is not to say that Stevens's ends are not sincerely libertarian, but, as our sources point out, he is indeed a politician.
In the process of preparing for Sutton's trip, members of the Phoenix Foundation began to worry about possible government interference with their activities. Packages coming in and out of Vila were frequently delivered opened, and most of the people interviewed for this article felt that telephone conversations were regularly monitored at the government-controlled telephone company. So a complex set of codes was constructed so that Sutton could communicate emergency messages via shortwave to the United States. As it turned out, everything went smoothly, and Sutton went about his business, living as a guest of Stevens's. Authorities apparently thought he was only a writer.
A radio had been set up in the Na-Griamel village of Tanafo by an employee of the Phoenix Foundation and was in use several hours each night, as much as its generator would allow. Featured were Jimmy's taped speeches and an alternative to Radio Vila's pro-National Party news. Oliver left the radio operator and Sutton and returned with the others to the United States. Sutton was to continue the economic analysis and work with Stevens on a draft of the constitution for the proposed new country. It should be said that the money given the two libertarians remaining in Tanafo was not enough to cover their own expenses; their motivation seems to have been largely ideological.
Sutton and Stevens apparently liked each other from the first. Sutton recalls late nights of political, philosophical discussions with "Moly," talking "often until three or four in the morning." And the Melanesian people loved "Jungle David."
One day, Sutton relates, he came upon a man carving a fighting stick in preparation for the upcoming declaration of independence. (Sutton confirms reports of violence and threats of violence by National Party members toward Na-Griamelians.) Sutton, a husky six-feet-two-inches, demonstrated how easy it is to disarm a man with a stick, and the next day Stevens asked him to train the Na-Griamel police force in self-defense. While the radio technician struggled to keep Radio Tanafo operating with insufficient money and parts, Sutton taught self-defense and principles of constitutionality to four dozen pupils of all ages from all over the northern islands.
Sutton became completely enamored of the people. He found that their "primitive" live-and-let-live attitudes were actually a respectable understanding of what are called libertarian ideas in the United States. He took it upon himself to improve the quality of their diet, encouraging them to increase their protein consumption. He taught them hygiene and comparative political and economic systems. He even attempted to change their language a little when he found that the words for "white man" and "black man" in the English-French pidgin "bichlemar" (spoken by all New Hebrideans, besides their dozens of languages and dialects) were massa and boy.
He was infuriated by the Condominium's treatment of the natives. They were forbidden to own rifles, despite the fact that large bats were destroying 25 percent of their fruit crop. They couldn't even afford flashlights to hunt them at night with bow and arrow because Condominium law limited the natives' legal wage to $2 Australian a day, and tariffs artificially increased the prices of manufactured goods.
On December 27, 1975, Stevens declared independence for a federation of northern islands bearing the name Na-Griamel and ordered the Condominium government to leave by April 1. The next day, Radio Tanafo announced that Na-Griamel had
evicted the British and French as colonialists, not as residents.…there are good men among all peoples.…The new government will levy no taxes, regulate no one's life. Instead, it will serve to carry on minimal functions of government.…Each settlement will function with its own laws, customs, and traditions.
In the village of Tanafo, dancing continued far into the night—[representatives of] each island contributed its different dance.
On Tuesday, December 30, in New York, Chiefs James Garae Bakeo of Aoba and Timothy Weles Nafakon of Espiritu Santo, accompanied by their friend, paramount Chief Osea Gavidi of Fiji, presented their credentials to the United Nations and deposited copies of their declaration of sovereignty. They cited UN Resolution 1514, which provides for the right of all peoples to self-determination, and a poll taken by Na-Griamel showing overwhelming support for independence among the northern tribes' 26,000 people. They were ignored.
In the New Hebrides News, issued by the British residency office, the declaration was belittled. The atmosphere on the islands was tense. Stevens put guards on the gates of Tanafo and at the radio station. Threats among political factions were common, especially by the Tabwemasana group, then opposed to Stevens but now more or less aligned with Na-Griamel. Sutton recalls jamming of Radio Tanafo's frequencies by someone on Vila and by the British police station on Espiritu Santo, and a plan by Stevens to stampede several thousand cattle into Santo if the Condominium hadn't pulled out by the first of April (a plan that Sutton was successful in dissuading).
On February 21, Chief Tapun of Big-Bay, a Tabwemasana, placed nagria and namele leaves around the flagpole outside the Condominium agency in Santo to protect the Condominium government. The effect was to kill any demonstration of force on April 1, so seriously do the natives take the custom symbol.
A few days before the April 1 deadline, a message was read over Radio Tanafo warning the Condominium to leave and using the words, "fire and blood." Tabwemasana and the National Party demanded that military force be used to crush Na-Griamel. French troops from New Caledonia actually landed in Santo, and a British warship cruised offshore. On April 2, a 15-man delegation from Na-Griamel delivered an extension of their ultimatum, giving the Condominium until August 10 to get out. But nobody took it seriously, as the debacle had seriously hurt Jimmy Stevens's credibility.
Sutton and Stevens, meanwhile, had completed the draft of a constitution for the new country (see box, p. 36). After a meeting at which Sutton explained it word by word, the custom chiefs of Na-Griamel approved the constitution, and 200 copies of it were made and distributed throughout the Na-Griamel federation.
Shortly thereafter, Sutton was recalled to the United States by an outraged Oliver. He blamed Sutton for not preventing the "fire and blood" statement (Sutton says he was powerless to change Stevens's mind) and worried that the self-defense classes would be construed as military aid. On May 8, Oliver sent a letter to Stevens warning him against alienating the French. On the 10th, Phoenix Foundation board member John Hospers wrote a diplomatic masterpiece to the French high commissioner for New Caledonia attempting to heal the wounds and explaining the purpose and efforts of the Phoenix Foundation. The effort succeeded: Jimmy was invited to Paris, and in July he led a Na-Griamel delegation to meet once again with French officials. The British, on the other hand, remained implacable. They denied a visa extension to the Phoenix radio technician, forcing him to leave the country. (By that time, however, the natives had learned how to operate Radio Tanafo.)
The Phoenix Foundation had not abandoned the New Hebrides. In September 1976 a political consultant was sent to work with Jimmy, preparing for the election at the end of October to seat five members from the northern islands in the next provisional assembly. Their goal was for moderate or Na-Griamel candidates to win at least three of the five seats. The consultant lived secretly in Tanafo for 10 days, talking tactics with Stevens. Jimmy used his $500 contribution to hire a ship for campaigning among the islands and to pay for Na-Griamel literature. When the consultant's health started to go, he went back to Santo, a town of a couple of thousand people with European food and a hotel. During the elections, he witnessed massive election fraud and left the New Hebrides convinced that Na-Griamel didn't have a chance ever to succeed.
The Phoenix Foundation moved its headquarters to Amsterdam in December that year, and the Americans—including Oliver—resigned from the board. From that point on, the Foundation ceased to have any significant role in the drama. Several of the trustees were discouraged and shocked by the lack of control exhibited over Foundation business. Robert Doorn, an associate of Harry Schultz's, took over the newsletter and wrote and marketed a book that appeared to be a constitution for the New Hebrides, although the chiefs in the New Hebrides say they have never seen it. (An associate of Doorn's is currently promoting New Hebrides coins, against Na-Griamel wishes.) American support from then on centered around Oliver and F. Thomas Eck III, an attorney who is general counsel to the Carson City School District.
In July 1977 a Joint Communique of the Anglo-French Ministerial Conference set new elections for November of that year and again in the second half of 1979. This time the elections would be for a real National Assembly to be filled by New Hebrideans to aid in the transition to independence, now scheduled for July 30, 1980. And this time the socialist National Party—now going by the name Vanuaaku—lost big. George Kalsakau, leader of the moderate Natatok party, which is friendly toward Na-Griamel, was elected chief minister of the National Assembly. Neither the new chief minister, however, nor the members of his cabinet nor the newly elected National Assembly would be recognized by the Vanuaaku party, announced its president, Father Walter Lini. This is the man who is supported by the World Council of Churches. This is the party that has the blessing of the US State Department and the world media.
In January 1978, after the new assembly members were inaugurated, Vanuaaku decided to hoist its own flag and declare independence too. Father Lini announced the existence of the People's Provisional Government for all of the New Hebrides. His "government" officials, who address one another as "commissar," set up their own police force and declared that anyone wishing to travel from one island to another would have to buy a pass for each island visited, at a cost of $1.00 apiece, a considerable sum for the native population. Travelers were required to show the passes to People's Provisional policemen on arrival. The party also levied a business license tax on merchants. The Condominium did nothing.
Los Angeles Times correspondent Charles Hillinger covered these strange events, reporting Chief Minister Kalsakau's reaction: "I am disturbed about the breakaway government, disturbed about its far-to-the-left leanings." Yet aside from Hillinger's little-noticed article, the world press was silent. There was to be none of the cries of outrage heard two years later over Vemarana's new government.
In 1978 Na-Griamel was taken more and more seriously. In August Tanafo was visited by an official French delegation, met with flags and banners. An airstrip was built at Big-Bay, and in November Na-Griamel announced over Radio Tanafo the beginning of air service via Air-Melanesia.
In March 1979 Jimmy Stevens came to the United States to meet with officials of the State Department and the United Nations, offering to take in 3,000 Vietnamese boat people. The local people had built homes and planted gardens for them in preparation. The act was undoubtedly humanitarian, but it was typical of Stevens's libertarian opportunism. He was not unaware of the anticommunist sentiments of the fleeing refugees and the way they would probably vote in future elections. Father Lini and the Vanuaaku party vehemently opposed the move, charging that it would "cause racial imbalance."
Another set of elections in June 1979, confirming the Vanuaaku defeat of 1977, gave moderates and Na-Griamelians hope for the coming November elections. Consequently, everyone was flabbergasted in November when Lini, who had all along refused to recognize the elected prime minister, was said to have been elected prime minister himself. Once again, cries of vote fraud were raised—and ignored. The British supported Lini just as they had humored his People's Provisional Government by looking the other way. But there was growing unrest over Lini in the native population. As familiarity with the voting process and the scale of election fraud increased, Lini lost more and more status.
In March 1980 Stevens—accompanied by ex-prime minister Kalsakau of Vila; president of the five-island Tafea federation, Jean Marie Laye; and seven other chiefs representing most of the New Hebrides—went to Paris. They complained about the Vanuaaku party. George Kalsakau's house had been burned to the ground after he had spoken out against Lini; Laye had been severely beaten; and other complaints were brought. The French were already aware of the situation. The delegation went on to England for similar talks. They were ignored. Lini's group was simultaneously making its pleas to the two governments.
After the trip, five of the chiefs went on to Carson City to talk to Oliver and Eck about the Vanuaaku-drafted constitution that Lini had declared—without any vote—the constitution of the New Hebrides. The council of chiefs asked their help in drafting an alternate constitution.
Lini's constitution subjugated individual rights to the government's rights on the first page: "The Republic of the New Hebrides recognizes, that, subject to any restrictions imposed by law on non-citizens, all persons are entitled to the following fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual…subject to interests in defense, safety, public order, welfare and health." It is vague and filled with generalities, with a whole section devoted to the tenure of civil servants. It sets up several agencies with no function but to bring potential opposition onto the government payroll. It has no provision for civilian control of the military and gives government the authority to suspend the bill of rights.
Eck agreed to go to the New Hebrides to help with a constitutional convention. The French government accepted Eck in an advisory position along with one of their own lawyers, Armand Lizop. The idea was to have a confederation constitution that would allow each of the four districts in the New Hebrides to write its own federation constitution.
Eck flew to Santo on April 9. Twenty chiefs representing every island in the New Hebrides had met for the convention. Even a chief belonging to the Vanuaaku party and representing Malekula, an old Vanuaaku stronghold, was there. Lini was losing support all over the islands as he threatened to bring in British troops to control them. For 10 days leaders chosen through the ancient ways of custom worked, hammering out a confederation constitution. It was finalized on the 16th or 17th of April, depending on which side of the International Dateline you were on, and was signed by all 20 leaders, including one from Vila.
Lini, meanwhile, had asked Jimmy to meet him in Vila, but Jimmy refused, fearing for his life. (During the convention, Eck had narrowly escaped death by deciding at the last minute not to fly to Vila. He was to have accompanied two moderate party leaders who in an airport on the way, according to local papers, were gunned down by Vanuaaku terrorists.) So Lini came to Santo, apparently hoping to reopen the proceedings with a group of his people and to modify the constitution. He told the convention that his commissars would review their constitution, to which Chief Alfred Maleau replied: "You can take your communist commissars and go to hell." Returning after lunch, Lini said: "Wash my hands of it. Affairs of Santo blong man-Santo." He agreed to stop pushing his Tanzanian-modeled constitution and left.
Eck stayed to help write federation constitutions for Vemarana and Tafea, the southern federation consisting of Tanna, Aniwa, Futuna, Erromango, and Aneityum, from which it takes its name. (The 1976 constitution was no longer sufficient because of the confederation arrangement.) The third and fourth federation groups wanted him to stay and write their constitutions, but he had to return home. Reports are that they have adopted ones modeled very closely on the other two, almost identical, federation documents, which strictly limit government. From Article II, Section 2, of the Vemarana constitution: "All political power is inherent in the people. The government is instituted solely for the protection and security of the people in order to prevent force and fraud." Not surprisingly, attention is also paid to custom. From Article VII, Section 12: "Notwithstanding any law or provision of this Constitution to the contrary, any controversy between any person or entity may be resolved by Custom tradition, and neither the courts nor the legislature shall have any jurisdiction over such resolution, provided, however, that one party to the dispute is living under Custom Law."
"TROUBLE IN PARADISE"
Eck left the New Hebrides in late April believing that the battle was won. Lini had agreed to bow out, and it was just a matter of time until the 18th of June, when the Vemarana constitution was scheduled to go before the people for approval or disapproval.
Back in Vila, however, Lini's hands had again become dirtied. He refused to drop his plan to impose his constitution and refused to go along with the federation/confederation arrangement. Late in May a member of Vanuaaku escorted the American ambassador to Fiji on a trip to Tanna. Speaking to a group of federation-minded natives, the ambassador told the shocked assemblage that US support and foreign aid would be available to the New Hebrides only if Lini's government remained in power.
The speech infuriated the Tannese. They revolted, seizing the Condominium government offices. On May 27, the British in Vila sent in a mobile police unit that retook the offices. The Na-Griamel people decided that the only hope for Vemarana was to act quickly. Convinced that Vanuaaku was planning to seize power—with the help of British forces, if necessary—in the pre-dawn hours of May 28 they marched on Santo, surprising the officials and securing control. The federation of Vemarana was proclaimed a new country.
The world press wrote it all up as a rebellion against the British-French Condominium government, no doubt relying on press releases from Walter Lini. The Condominium, however, was already scheduled to die a natural death. It was the commissars of the Vanuaaku that the people of the New Hebrides sought to overthrow.
True to form, Lini called for the Condominium to crush the federations. When the British and French could not agree on a plan of action, Lini said that he would get the British to put down the rebels if the French wouldn't cooperate. The British evacuated all their subjects from Espiritu Santo, but most soon returned. Lini cut off all communication lines with the rebel islands and attempted to blockade supply boats. By June 2, all of the Condominium police taken on the 28th had been released, and Vemarana police had taken over normal peace-keeping functions. "All law and order have broken down," warned Lini. The Vemarana police arrested two boys for stealing a transistor radio.
The people of Tanna attempted a second revolt in the second week of June, but well-prepared police drove them from headquarters in a burst of gunfire. Alexis Iolu, a prominent opposition leader and member of Parliament, lay dead with three bullets in his body, and natives say that Walter Lini's minister of finance killed him. Alarmed, the French flew 55 riot police from New Caledonia to Vila, whereupon the British announced that they would land 200 marines. The French withdrew their special forces, having seen that no civil war was developing and not wanting to provide the British with justification for landing their troops. The British landed anyway.
In the United States, the New York Times News Service quoted a State Department spokesman saying that the United States "does not condone the reported interference in the internal affairs of the New Hebrides by U.S. citizens" and added that an investigation was under way to determine whether these activities "are in violation of U.S. criminal Statutes." Back in Carson City, State Department investigators were asking a lot of questions. Even Interpol was in town, going so far as to check out a gold and silver trading firm with Phoenix in its name. Could Oliver be prosecuted under the Logan Act, which under some conditions makes it a crime to contribute to a foreign cause? "If they want to use the Logan Act, let them use it on the National Council of Churches, which supports the World Council of Churches in full knowledge that some of the money is used to buy weapons for terrorists," says Oliver.
So what did the libertarians get out of this? Thus far, nothing. Make no mistake, Oliver sees nothing wrong with making money on the deal, but he realizes the political exigencies of the situation. A development corporation formed by him, Eck, and Hospers has been turned over to Vemaranans. Na-Griamel once gave Oliver a small island; he says he intends to offer it for use by Vietnamese boat people. So will he ever make money out of the situation? Probably, if Vemarana maintains its independence.
As the July 30 independence date neared, Walter Lini asked for military aid from the socialist government of Papua New Guinea. He was promised troops, planes, and patrol boats. Alarmed, Stevens called on the French for protection. The French conferred with the British, then dispatched 100 French troops from New Caledonia, joined by 100 of the British troops from Vila. The joint force, under French command, landed in Santo town on July 24. At press time it was unclear whether they would remain after July 30.
Thus, the future of Vemarana remains very much up in the air, dependent not on the "intervention" of a handful of American libertarians but rather on the relative power of outsiders: Walter Lini and his armed socialist allies, a British government allegedly committed to free enterprise, and a French government whose tacit support for Stevens is now on the line.
Will the Vemaranans be forced under Lini's control? Or will this one small experiment in Third World free enterprise be allowed to continue? Affairs of Santo may "blong man-Santo"—but the eyes of the world are now on the new country of Vemarana.
Patrick Cox is a freelance writer and REASON's Spotlight columnist. He has a bachelor's degree in economics from Boise State University and is writing a book on immigration.
RESPECTING LAND RIGHTS
Property rights in the New Hebrides are specified and preserved through oral contracts enforced by traditional institutions of "custom." Contracts can be simple or highly complex. Property borders can be curving lines around clusters of coconut trees, outcroppings of rock, or the wanderings of a stream. It is not uncommon for contracts to include provisional clauses making rent, lease, or sales payments contingent on the yield or market prices of crops.
Joint ownership is common. Some contracts split land rights into different uses: one person has rights to the yams grown on a parcel of land, while another harvests the coconuts. Even more complex contracts, giving individuals rights to a crop every other year or every third year, are observed in New Hebridean society.
Europeans coming to the New Hebrides often did not understand—or simply ignored—the sophistication of native land rights customs. "Land grabbing" did take place in the New Hebrides, especially during the first part of the 20th century. If a native who owned only some selective portion of the rights to a certain piece of land placed his "X" on a land sale contract, the courts maintained in many cases that the property within the borders described in the contract (that is, all the rights associated with the property) belonged to the purchaser. Many of these contracts—some of which provided for payment only in trinkets—were signed after the "seller" had been gotten drunk.
Because of their elaborate traditions with respect to land, it was difficult for New Hebrideans to see any necessity for precise surveying and deed registration. Neither wanting nor needing it, they have chafed under European intervention into their traditions of land rights.
The complex traditional culture of the New Hebrides is referred to as "custom." It is not readily understood by outsiders, for the New Hebrideans talk about it to others only reluctantly. This is at least partly because of the missionaries' attempts to stamp out what they considered pagan practices. Yet custom—though encompassing native deities—is not really a competing religious code. Today both Christian and non-Christian natives operate by custom.
A key feature of custom is the system for determining rank and status among the males of a tribe. Called by different names on different islands—nimangki, suque, erpnavet—the system functions as the base of religion, politics, economy, and art. As summarized by Charlotte Gourguechon, an American who lived for three years in the New Hebrides:
It is a society within a society and it is strictly hierarchical, somewhat like the army back home. Each man has a grade. He can be promoted to higher grades by paying pigs and organizing ceremonies. A man who thus rises in rank acquires prestige and power in life.
Moreover, in all but one of the New Hebridean tribes, there is no hereditary chieftainship. Whoever earns the highest rank in the nimangki is the chief (called a "moly," as in Jimmy Moly Stevens). A chief can bequeath his wealth (traditionally measured in numbers of pigs) to his son. But, continues Gourguechon:
…there is no guarantee whatsoever that the son of a chief can become a chief himself. On the contrary, a man who has no heritage can earn pigs in doing service for others.…There are even men who climb the grades thanks to borrowed pigs. They repay them later with interest. If you lend me a pig whose teeth have begun to curve [a highly prized trait], in two years I will repay you a pig with teeth up to three-quarters of a circle. New Hebrideans are capitalists.
Thus, custom operates as an ongoing election process.
Most tribes' nimangki includes a special building, taboo to outsiders, called the nakamal. It is the place where the most important custom activities take place, including the planning of festivals, creation of ritual art objects, and the kava ceremony—drinking a mildly hallucinogenic substance, telling tales, and having visions. Na-Griamel, as part of its efforts to restore many aspects of custom and to counteract the anti-custom missionary influence, has developed the nakamal into a quasi-political gathering place. The new Vemarana constitution makes the nakamal the administrative center of local government at the village level.
CONSTITUTION FOR A NIU KUNTRI
Explanation of the 1976 draft constitution, presented to the New Hebrideans in bichlemar. (Editors' suggestion: Read out loud.)
Na-Griamel Federation emi nam blo wun niu fela kuntri blo iumi.
Na-Griamel Federation emi gat wun buk we i cal constitution.
Constitution emi wun kin buk we i mak olgeta law blo wun kuntri. Emi Namata blo law.
Emi se wat rit blo evri man. Emi se planty tabu blo kapman.* Emi se rod blo iumi we iume gat power go fri.
Constitution emi rit lo english. Sepos wun solicitor emi tri brekem constitution blo iumi, i mus fit wun strong buk. English emi wun strong we tok-tok.
So iumi gat wun buk we i tok-tok lo english. But evri wod blo buk i tok-tok lo rit blo iumi. So iumi red ia, lo bichlemar, we buk blo iumi emi tok-tok.
RIT BLO EVRI MAN MO EVRI WOMAN
1. Evri man mo evri woman emi gat rit lo lif blo im. Evri man, sepos i swet, i gat rit kip wat i ern.
2. Evri man mo evri woman emi gat rit own graon o eni somting we man i gat power hol im.
3. Evri man, mo evri woman, i gat rit own musket. i gat rit own eni kin musket.
4. Evri man mo evri woman i gat rit hav wun gud fela trial. Sepos wun man emi gat truble witem law, emi gat rit go lo wun gud fela cort.
5. Evri man mo evri woman i gat rit com olgeta witem planty otha fela wen i want tok-tok, o wen i want pre, o wen i want save wun samting blo custom.
6. Evri man mo evri woman i gat rit tok-tok fri. Kapman i gat no power telem iumi eni kin tok-tok emi rong.
7. Evri man mo evri woman i fri go, i fri com. Kapman i gat no power stap iumi. But iumi gat no rit walkabout graon blo nother fela, sepos i no se i gud.
8. Evri man mo evri woman emi gat rit mak moni, sepos i save makem moni. Kapman i gat no power mak moni no mo.
9. Evri man mo evri woman i fri com olgeta witem eni pipol i chus. Kapman i no got power telem iumi wat pipol iumi gat rit marry, no wat pipol iumi got rit tok-tok witem.
10. Evri man mo evri woman got rit mak contract, sepos i wantem.
11. Evri woman got rit long havem pikinniny o no.
12. Kapman i no got power whipem eni man. No docta i got rit cutem iumi wan niu we, o givem iumi wan niu fela medsin witoutem iumi se i gud. No man i gat rit kilim notha man firstim.
13. Evri man mo evri woman emi gat rit fit wen som man i tri kilim im. Sepos iufala got polis lo protek iufala rit blo fit i no finis. Rit is i stap witem evri man mo witem evri woman alltim.
14. Evri man mo evri woman emi gat rit chus we i wantem ting-ting, mo wat relijun i want, mo wat custom i want. Kapman i gat no power tuchem ting-ting blo man, mo relijun blo man, mo custom blo man.
15. Evri man mo evri woman emi gat rit do bisnis. Kapman i gat no power tuchem bisnis.
16. Evri man mo evri woman emi gat rit stap witoutem tret, witoutem som man i givem frit. No man i gat rit mak tret o givem som otha fela frit firstim.
17. Evri man mo evri woman emi gat rit do wat i chus witoutem kapman i luk mo witoutem kapman i lissen.
18. No man mo no woman mus do wok lo witnes lo cort witoutem pe. Pe i mus be sam-sam fo wok man i do evri de.
19. No man mo no woman i mus wok lo jury, sepos i no wantem wok lo jury.
20. Kapman i got no power takem man we i mus fit o we i mus wok witoutem man i se i gud firstim.
21. Kapman i gat no power lo ae wat buk i se, mo wat cinema i se, mo wat magazin i se.
22. Evri man mo evri woman emi gat rit do eni kin bisnis witoutem kapman emi se wun wod.
23. Evri man mo evri woman i gat rit we no man i gat right tel kiaman lo bisnis.
24. Kapman i gat no power tak tax, mo i gat no power tak duty lo eni man.
Lo papa ia, iu no gat olgeta constitution blo iumi. But iu got som small we nao, we iu gat power save rod blo iumi lo Niu Hebrides. Sepos iu gat wun question lo constitution blo iumi, iu fri rit lo Hedquarter blo Na-Griamel, lo Tanafo.
* kapman: government official
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Wun Niu Fela Kuntri".