‘PRINCE PHILIP

Van­u­atu tribe that reveres him as son of god dis­mayed over re­tire­ment news

New Straits Times - - World -

TANNA IS­LAND (Van­u­atu)

THE re­tire­ment of Britain’s Prince Philip from pub­lic life led world head­lines on Thurs­day, but his most de­vout and re­mote fol­low­ers have only just heard the news.

A tribe in Van­u­atu was shocked and dis­mayed to dis­cover on Satur­day that the man they pray to as the son of an an­ces­tral lo­cal moun­tain god, will likely never re­turn to their Pa­cific Is­land home.

The Bri­tish royal, who said he would no longer take part in pub­lic en­gage­ments, alone or along­side his wife, Queen El­iz­a­beth, is part of the fab­ric of life in the vil­lage of Youna­nen on Tanna Is­land.

Vil­lagers pray to the 95-yearold prince daily, ask­ing for his bless­ing on the ba­nana and yam crops that make their prim­i­tive and ex­tremely poor com­mu­nity self-suf­fi­cient.

“If he comes one day, the peo­ple will not be poor; there will be no sick­ness, no debt; and, the gar­den will be grow­ing very well,” vil­lage chief Jack Malia said through an in­ter­preter at the vil­lage’s Naka­mal, a tra­di­tional meet­ing place where the men gather at night to drink highly in­tox­i­cat­ing kava.

Vil­lagers have sev­eral photos of the prince, in­clud­ing one dated 1980 of him in a suit, hold­ing a club they made for him and sent to Lon­don.

“Prince Philip has said one day he will come and visit us,” said Malia, who was born in 1964, but did not know his birth­day.

“We still be­lieve that he will come, but if he doesn’t come, the pic­tures that I am hold­ing... it means noth­ing.”

Ac­cord­ing to lo­cal leg­end, the pale-skinned son of the moun­tain god had ven­tured across the seas to look for a rich and pow­er­ful woman to marry.

An­thro­pol­o­gists be­lieve Philip, who fit­ted the bill by mar­ry­ing a pow­er­ful woman, be­came linked to the leg­end in the 1960s when Van­u­atu was an An­glo-French colony known as the New He­brides. “Where are the bridges? We have been wait­ing for two days. So many of my neigh­bours and friends died. We were freed, but we are not happy be­cause we lost the peo­ple clos­est to us.”

The flood­ing has cut off all cross­ing points be­tween east and west and forced the mil­i­tary to dis­man­tle the makeshift bridges link­ing the two sides of Vil­lagers at the time were likely to have seen por­traits of Philip and the Queen at govern­ment of­fices and po­lice sta­tions run by colo­nial of­fi­cials.

The be­lief that Philip, also known as the Duke of Ed­in­burgh, was in­deed the trav­el­ling son was re­in­forced in 1974 when he and the queen made an of­fi­cial visit to the New He­brides.

“Prince Philip is im­por­tant to us be­cause our an­ces­tors told us that part of our cus­tom is in Eng­land,” said Malia. Reuters Iraq’s sec­ond-largest city.

Mothers car­ry­ing ba­bies, men in wheel­chairs, and fam­i­lies of up to 15 peo­ple have been pay­ing 1,000 Iraqi di­nars (RM3.73) per head to make the short jour­ney.

The army ini­tially planned to trans­port peo­ple us­ing steam­boats when they took down the pon­toons, but now say they have run out of gas. Reuters

REUTERS PIC

Chief Jack Malia (sec­ond from right) from the Imanourane tribe hold­ing photographs of Prince Philip as he sits next to other vil­lagers Youna­nen on Tanna Is­land in the Pa­cific is­land na­tion of Van­u­atu on Satur­day.

REUTERS PIC

A dis­placed Iraqi hold­ing the body of his wife, who was killed dur­ing the fight­ing in Mo­sul, on a boat car­ry­ing his fam­ily as they cross the Ti­gris River af­ter the bridge was tem­po­rar­ily closed, in west­ern Mo­sul, Iraq, on Satur­day.

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