“It is raining in the hearts of the people”

“It is raining in the hearts of the people”
Children are lining the route from the Vanuatu parliament to the airport as the funeral procession takes the President Baldwin Lonsdale back to his home. Photo: Vanuatu Daily Post
Children are lining the route from the Vanuatu parliament to the airport as the funeral procession takes the President Baldwin Lonsdale back to his home. Photo: Vanuatu Daily Post

Schoolchildren are lining the route from Vanuatu’s parliament to the airport today to farewell the country’s late president Baldwin Lonsdale.

Thousands of people have been paying their respects to Father Lonsdale who died after a suspected heart attack at the weekend.

Father Lonsdale’s body was moved from State House early this morning for the funeral at parliament buildings in the capital Port Vila.

People in Port Vila mourn during the funeral procession of the late president Baldwin Lonsdale
People in Port Vila mourn during the funeral procession of the late president Baldwin Lonsdale Photo: Vanuatu Daily Post

The governors-general of New Zealand and Australia, Fiji’s president and representatives from the US, Britain, Indonesia and New Caledonia are among foreign dignitaries attending the service.

RNZ International correspondent Len Garae is at the airport in the capital.

“It is raining in Port Vila and it is also raining in the hearts of the population of Port Vila because of the loss of the President of the Republic,” he said.

“There are people arriving at the airport dressed all in black while all along the streets of Port Vila, all secondary school students, hundreds, even thousands are lining the streets in preparation to farewell his body.

Vanuatu's prime minister Charlot Salwai and staff from his office pay their last respects to President Baldwin Lonsdale in Port Vila on 19 June 2017.
Vanuatu’s prime minister Charlot Salwai and staff from his office pay their last respects to President Baldwin Lonsdale in Port Vila on 19 June 2017. Photo: Hilaire Bule

Two government ministers will be among those accompanying Father Lonsdale’s coffin on the charetered flight to his home island of Motalava where a traditional ceremony will take place.

After a brief stop it will continue on to Vanualava island, the president’s final resting place.

Vanuatu's prime minister Charlot Salwai pays his respects to the late president Baldwin Lonsdale during his lying in state June 2017
Vanuatu’s prime minister Charlot Salwai pays his respects to the late president Baldwin Lonsdale during his lying in state June 2017 Photo: Hilaire Bule

Father Lonsdale will always be remembered as the people’s president.

Vanuatu’s National Council of Women says Father Lonsdale leaves a big legacy behind as he was a big supporter of women’s issues and equality.

The council’s executive director Leias Cullwick said her group paid their respects to Father Lonsdale’s family.

“With our condolence message, we told the family that as far as the National Council of Women working with the women, and the feedback we get from the provinces and the islands where the president visited, we said that we will always remember him as the people’s president,” she said.

Leias Cullwick said this was a very sombre and sad time for the country.

Father Lonsdale is survived by six children and 10 siblings.

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