Prince Philip may have seemed to many people as a normal person while he was alive. However, in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu, the deceased monarch was and continues to be venerated as a god, with his "supernatural" status purportedly spawning a movement known as the "Prince Philip Movement."
Locals in the village of Yaohnanen venerate and hold him in such high regard that they were distraught when word of his death on April 9 was delivered to them over the weekend by a local official from the country's cultural center, according to the New York Post.
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Jean-Pascal Wahé, the official who travelled four hours to the distant village to inform them of his loss, told a news source, "The villagers were really upset to learn of the passing of this amazing man. He was a very significant man to all of us, and his death is a huge loss."
Former Buckingham Palace spokesperson Dickie Arbiter said, "One of the oarsmen putting them ashore was a gentleman from Tanna named Chief Jack. He assumed Philip was a long-dead warrior who had descended from the mountains in search of a bride."
He continued, "The bride is Mrs. Queen, so Philip is the god." Though the duke never visited Tanna, he did once welcome a delegation from Yaohnanen at Windsor Castle, according to the New York Post.
Followers of the movement reportedly hold a memorial for the duke on Mondays, along with some rites such as traditional dancing and crying. The ladies in the movement cook a "spiritual" lunch, while the men drink "Kava," a local and unique traditional drink. With the duke no longer alive, it is predicted that the sect's adherents will bestow divine status on his first child, Prince Charles, the British heir to the throne.
The Vanuatu People
Although some of the outer islands have Polynesian inhabitants, the indigenous population, known as ni-Vanuatu, is predominantly Melanesian. Europeans, Micronesians, Chinese, and Vietnamese are all present in tiny numbers. Approximately three-quarters of the population lives in rural areas, although since independence, the metropolitan centers of Luganville and Port-Vila have attracted a large number of individuals seeking better possibilities.
More than 100 Melanesian languages and dialects are spoken; Bislama, an English-based Melanesian pidgin, is the national language and one of the three official languages, along with English and French. Seven-tenths of the population is Protestant, with Presbyterians being the most common denomination. Roman Catholicism, traditional beliefs, and cargo cults are among the other religions.
Vanuatu's economy has traditionally been based on subsistence agriculture and an intricate commerce network within and between islands. Following the establishment of European plantations in the island group after 1867, economic changes occurred: cotton was the first crop, followed by corn (maize), coffee, cocoa beans, and coconuts (for copra). Later, cattle ranching was established.
By the 1880s, French planters had reclaimed the plantation sector from the British, though they, too, were finding it more difficult to compete with ni-Vanuatu producers, who could rely on subsistence agriculture in times of economic hardship.
The Great Depression of the 1930s crushed French ambitions of economic hegemony, which were predicated on high world copra prices and the importation of Vietnamese labor in the 1920s. By 1948, the ni-Vanuatu were producing the majority of the copra in the island group, but it wasn't until the 1970s that they were able to take control of the trade.
The most important exports are kava, beef, copra, lumber, and cocoa; the primary export destinations are Australia, New Caledonia, Japan, and New Zealand. Imports are primarily from Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, and Fiji, and consist primarily of machinery and transport equipment, food and live animals, and mineral fuels. Vanuatu is aiming to augment large-scale agriculture with stronger extractive, manufacturing, and service sectors to nurture its long-term sustainability due to its sensitivity to weather and commodity market volatility.
The Way They Live
Foreign corporations aiming to convert land into resorts and other attractions have been drawn in by the growing profits provided by tourism. Despite the fact that all land in Vanuatu is owned by ni-Vanuatu customary collective ownership and cannot be sold to foreigners, the government decided to allow land to be leased for 75 years in the late 20th and early 21st centuries due to increased interest from abroad. However, such leases were sometimes arranged to the detriment of ni-Vanuatu; for example, they included a condition that, at the conclusion of the 75-year period, the traditional owners could only reclaim their lands by paying the whole cost of any development.
There was worry in the early twenty-first century that such restrictions would result in the irreversible alienation of habitually owned lands. Forestry, which was prominent in the early colonial history of the islands but was later overtaken by plantation agriculture, has regained prominence. Much of the nation is covered in forest, including places rich in sandalwood and other tropical species. Because the bulk of trees felled in the 1980s were shipped as unsawn logs, the government outlawed roundwood exports and reduced the annual harvest in the early 1990s.
As a result, earnings from processed wood (mainly sawn on tiny portable mills) increased, and wood products made up a modest but important share of exports in the early twenty-first century. Another key source of foreign cash is the sale of commercial fishing rights, and there is extensive small-scale fishing for local use. Although manganese ore mining on Éfaté ceased in the 1970s, later investigations revealed a number of untapped deposits as well as the possibility of viable gold, copper, and petroleum reserves elsewhere on the islands.
Unpaved roads connect coastal settlements on most of Vanuatu's islands, and there are few interior roads. Interisland travel is only possible by boat or plane. Near Port-Vila, near Luganville on Espiritu Santo, and on the northwest side of Tanna, there are major airports. There are other smaller airfields strewn across the islands.
The president, who also serves as head of state, is elected to a five-year term by an electoral college made up of the unicameral Parliament and the presidents of the Regional Councils, according to the 1980 constitution. Members of Parliament are elected for four-year periods using a universal franchise system. The prime minister is chosen by Parliament from among its members, and the prime minister picks a Council of Ministers. A National Council of Chiefs (Malvatumauri) constituted of elected "custom chiefs" advises the government on questions of custom and tradition, according to the constitution. Local government tasks are delegated to provincial governments.
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