One of the Leaders of the Independence struggle, Barak Sope made two important calls to the Government on the 20th Anniversary of Lini Day at Saralana Stage in Port Vila yesterday.
The first is for the Government to recognise the suffering of Vanuatu’s first Prime Minister, late Father Walter Lini had suffered and consider paying compensation to his family.
The second is for the Government stop selling our national identity – the Vanuatu Passport to outsiders.
Sope says when the then New Hebrides National Party (NHNP which became VP on independence) was born at Owen Hall in 1974, Father Walter Lini was elected its President and he (Barak Sope) its Secretary General.
Sope labels Father Walter Lini as the “unifying force” in the struggle for almost ten years against the policies and politics of not one superpower but two superpowers, namely Britain and France.
He says through his close association with Father Lini, he was able to take part in the NHNP boycott of the first political election that the two colonial powers had attempted to organise on November 29 of 1978.
“The two colonial powers France and England went to the polls with other parties, especially Union Communite de Nouvelles Hebrides (UCNH) on that day but NHNP boycotted it and instead established what was called People’s Provisional Government. There was no election on November 29 and the boycott by the NHNP was successful and achieved its objective”, he confirms.
It was after this that the two colonial powers came to recognise the power held by Father Walter Lini and the NHNP.
A communique came all the way from London and Paris to advise Father Lini to travel to the two Capital Cities in the West to talk about Freedom and Independence for the New Hebrides.
November 29 which is a public holiday today is called Unity Day. The truth is that before and after November 29 1978, the New Hebrides was divided.
“I followed Father Walter Lini to Paris and London and Father Lini agreed with the two colonial powers to organise the writing of the Constitution in 1979. The story of the Constitution is long so I won’t talk about it today”,
In 1980, Father Walter Lini became the first Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the brand-new nation called Republic of Vanuatu.
“To complete the work that the two of us had started before Independence, he appointed me as his First Secretary, Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Roving Ambassador of Vanuatu”, Sope explains.
“Between 1980 and 1983, we established diplomatic relations with 40 different countries.
“Before ending my address, let me stress two important areas that Father Lini stood up for.
“The first one is education. When you look at the leaders in the Government, you will agree that they are highly educated and almost all of them are degree holders. God and politics chose them. Father Walter Lini was a highly-educated person who studied in Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and New Zealand.
“As for me, I was educated in Australia, at USP in Fiji and England. Without our high education, it would be a struggle to achieve our Independence because with our qualifications, we were able to communicate with leaders of different countries, church leaders and custom chiefs in our islands towards our struggle for our freedom and independence.
“The other area is our struggle for our national identity which Father Lini stood firm for to achieve was the importance to have our own passport.
“The passport of Vanuatu is the cornerstone in the struggle for freedom for Vanuatu. It has custom, church and political elements involved to achieve our identity as a people and an independent nation.
“Before 1980 we were the only ones without a passport. We struggled to win our identity in 1980.
“Today our Government is selling our Vanuatu Passport in the world. Prior to independence we referred to the importance of owning our passport as a blood connection towards our freedom. We spoke at the United Nations and Commonwealth about the need for us to have our own passport.
“Today the UN, England, France and other member countries are laughing at us because our Government is selling our passport which is the identity of the people of Vanuatu.
“Father Walter Lini and many of us, who fought for our freedom to own our passport, stand firm on our focus for the Government of today not to sell our identity to other peoples because we struggled hard to achieve it.”
He said Father Lini had sacrificed so much until he passed away but it seems this is not recognised.
“Father Lini was in America on official duty when he had a stroke. Our Government has never paid him any compensation, never. I am asking the Government to consider completing its duty because Father Lini had sacrificed his entire life to the end for the benefit of the people of Vanuatu”.
Barak Sope who worked closely with Father Lini says he was terminated from VP in 1988 over the Port Vila Urban Land Corporation issue.
In an internal power struggle, Father Lini was terminated from VP in 1990 after 17 years at the helm as President of VP.
After suffering a stroke in America, Father Lini continued to walk with difficulty and finally passed away at his home at Ohlen on February 21 in 1999.
Source; Vanuatu Daily Post