Police treating recent hanging of sorcery suspects as homicide
By Bruce Hill
MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Nov. 22, 2014) – Vanuatu MP and former finance minister Willie Jimmy is calling for witchcraft to be made a crime punishable by death.
The comment follows an incident last week on an island near Malekula in which a community, allegedly including chiefs and church pastors, hanged two men for suspected sorcery.
Police are treating the men’s deaths as homicide.
Mr Jimmy said having the law framed this way puts those who “innocently” kill accused witches at risk of punishment.
“We have to make law for this, because otherwise people will coordinate to hang and kill other people innocently and that we don’t want to continue to happen in these communities,” he told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat program.
“Even to the extreme that there could be some death penalty, some capital punishment against those who practice [witchcraft], I will not hesitate having agreed to that type of law passed by parliament.”
He said Melanesian people regard black magic as very real, and people who practice it should get the death penalty.
“As an indigenous Melanesian person, I do believe very strongly that witchcraft does exist among the Melanesian people, they do practice this witchcraft,” he said.
“We try to combat those who practice it but the problem is the law does not recognise that, because civil and criminal procedures require we have proof or evidence beyond all reasonable doubt before we can punish anybody, that makes it very, very difficult.
“It does take place in Melanesia, it does. If you think it does not then the people, those who practice that, they will be happy … that we don’t see the problems they are causing the community, that they will stay free all the time.”
He said he was not concerned with potential backlash from the international community, saying there were fundamental differences between Western and traditional Melanesian values.
“The international community, they do not have the same tradition as us. Our constitution says Vanuatu is founded on Melanesian traditional values, and then followed by Christian principles, so our traditional Melanesian values do exist, the good and bad sides of it,” Mr Jimmy said.