Blood is Thicker Than Friends “WONDERFUL” is how interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama described his recent visit to Vanuatu. Although he had transited through Vanuatu twice before, this was his first visit there. He was in Vanuatu to attend the 17th Melanesian Spearhead Group Leaders Summit last week.

Like his fellow leaders from Melanesia, Commodore Bainimarama was accorded a traditional ni-Vanuatu welcome on arrival in Port Vila last Tuesday. Security was tight as curious ni-Vanuatu tried to catch a glimpse of the South Pacific’s strongman as he was ushered into the VIP Lounge before being whisked away to Le Lagon Resort where all the other leaders were holed up.

Vanuatu journalists told us that Commodore Bainimarama held hero status in Vanuatu as locals admired him for standing up to the region’s bully brothers — Australia and New Zealand. University of the South Pacific law students studying at the Emalus Campus managed to hold court with Commodore Bainimarama on his first day in Vila. It was a relaxed talanoa session for the students as they asked questions at will on the situation back home before sharing the problems they faced studying in a foreign land. Following that, the interim PM headed off to the chiefs nakamal where he had a kava session with the head of the chief’s council. For anyone heading to Vanuatu — especially first timers — be warned a visit to a nakamal, or kava parlour, will test your senses. The Vanuatu brew is so strong it will blow you away. Have too much too quickly and one becomes a zombie, practically brain dead for a few hours. It is said to be stronger than our yaqona because they use the young roots and do not dry it before turning it into a gluey brew. Commodore Bainimarama said he could not help but talk about Vanuatu kava with his counterpart, Ham Lini.

The naval officer admitted even with his sea legs, the potency of the local kava hit him like a heavyweight boxer, saying when he stood up to leave, his mind told him to go one way while his body went in the other direction. But kava was not the only thing the interim PM was there for — his days were tied up with bilateral meetings with each of his MSCcounterparts.


Reprinted with permission from The Fiji Times ONLINE