More pigs are being challenged in local elections? Do pigs have to fly?
Political arenas are brutal at best, even on a tropical island in the South Pacific. Like women everywhere in politics, the demands can be crucified, but pigs have to fly in Vanuatu.
Women entering the bloodthirsty arena of politics need special recognition in a male-dominated battlefield. It’s great to see Ms. Hilary Clinton in the headlines again, now Barack Obama is supporting you.
A world away, another woman faces incredible opportunities.
Jenny, following in her famous aunt’s footsteps, got a main title earlier this year from Chief of the Chiefs National Council, Chief Paul Tahi.
Jenny was initially generously covered with baby powder, a symbol of luck and well done. Nobody knows where this custom came from, but be careful if you are an honorable guest in Vanuatu. You will also be covered generously with baby powder until you literally eat it.
Non-human electoral candidates
In order to enter the brutal field of politics, Jenny solemnly killed eleven pigs. During her wedding late last year with Joe Ligo, she also ceremoniously killed eleven pigs.
Jenny is the niece of political and women’s rights activist Grace Molis. Grace was the first woman to hold the post of private secretary to Father Walter Lini, the country’s first prime minister, after the country’s independence 28 years ago.
Ms. Ligo has returned to her home island of Ambae because the parliamentary elections are only a few weeks away. Everything should have been easy for this brave lady to sail, because she is touring most of the island on the campaign trail. Not correct!
On behalf of some Ambae chiefs, chief Moli Tari Jenny said that she should not compete on her home island, according to the island’s principles. Strange how this principle never appeared during the pig killing ceremony earlier this year. Perhaps the principles of the old custom of this island change from day to day?
Because of her marriage to Joe Ligo on another island, Pentecost, Chief Moli Jenny has said that there is one condition in which she can contest the Ambae constituency. She has to perform a custom ceremony presentation of 10 jabbed pigs to the chiefs.
That doesn’t sound too difficult until you see the true value of tusks. In Vanuatu, you just can’t go to a farm and buy 10 pigs. Especially if they are of reasonable age and size.
The Newcomer’s Guide to Winning Local Elections
Pig tusks are the wealth of every village and are among their very valuable possessions. They are real currency in Vanuatu. Tari Buri Bank, headed by Chief Viraleo, has nearly four billion dollars in collateral in pig tusks in its fourteen branches. The bank has reserves, accounts, check books and strict security. Most of the security, however, is done by ghosts and snakes. The bank offers mortgages as well as simple loans and pays an impressive 15% interest.
In some areas, it is common for women to pay school fees in piggy-back money. Without such a regime, many more children would never be able to go to school in a society where most villagers live on less than $ 1 a day. This is not a problem if the rich country supplies most of its needs.
Pigs that produce the highly valued wavy tusks have their upper teeth removed so that the lower teeth can bend. They are hand-fed for the rest of their lives. The pig is kept tied up to avoid damage to the tusk. The older the pig is, the better the curl is. The very rare three-corrugated tusk is only worn by chiefs.
Where does Ms. Ligo buy the esteemed 10 pigs that she has to give Chef Moli and his group? Chief Moli does not live on the island of Ambae. Does Jenny have to present the pigs on the island of Ambae or the chiefs on the distant island of Santo? Which island are the pigs flown to?
The plot condenses when two more chiefs have entered the political arena.They come mainly from the rank of Mambuhangvulu, the second highest rank of the Ambae primary system. The same tribe that Jenny comes from.
The chiefs told the local newspaper in the capital, Vanuatu, “If Chief Moli lived on Ambae, he would not question Ms. Ligo’s right to participate in the political environment.” Chief Moli’s reputation is childish and completely independent.