This article was originally published in the Vanuatu Daily Post.
Freelance writer and Sista editor Yasmine Bjornum conducted a series of interviews to commemorate people’s memories of independence and its impact on their lives. These are their stories.
When we finally gained Independence, it was a joy. We had great plans. Everybody wanted Independence, except for the French and Francophone Ni-Vanuatu. They claimed we weren’t ready but the Anglophone Ni-Vanuatu who were educated and qualified managed to persuade and influence the majority that we were.
The way I see it now is that we were given a picture of something without details, like a house. You can bring a photo and I like that house, but if I’m not given the specifications on how to build the house and I don’t have the knowledge, it’s just a photo, not reality. I think us Ni-Vanuatu didn’t understand the sacrifice or have the discipline required to achieve Independence, especially when dealing with people who had their own agenda.
The Vanua’aku Pati (VP) were united but as we progressed, the attitudes of leaders started to change because of outsiders coming in with their self interests. Father Walter Lini didn’t finish his leadership. To me, if VP wanted to maintain their unity, they should have hung on and waited until the next election instead of overthrowing him. Unity is necessary to allow the development towards real self-reliance. We were unable to lay a strong foundation for self-reliance because of this incident.
Since then, we’ve have had ongoing internal fighting, individuals are competing for power and not for the interests of the nation while parties are divided. We have been wasting too much time, money and resources. When a new government is formed, we need to revisit the previous one’s policies and plans and continue the work if it benefits the nation.
When the United of Moderate Parties (UMP) came into power in 1991, they didn’t continue VP’s plan. One of Father Walter Lini’s strategies was to focus on developing agriculture. He set up field assistants throughout Vanuatu to help the locals how to produce better quality produce and larger quantities. It was a good plan that wasn’t carried through. If it was, by this time, we would be more self-reliant as far as the economy is concerned.
I believe the money is from the land. 80% of the population lives in the rural areas. Why are all these people coming to Luganville and Port Vila? You earn money that is not enough and get caught in a system where it’s difficult for the family to maintain the culture of being together, being communal, as there is simply not enough to take care of everyone.
The Vanuatu government should invest more in education, agricultural development and developing an effective security system for the nation. Without security, why should investors support Vanuatu’s self-reliance? The more investors come in, the more jobs are created, but we need to make them feel safe.
I think our current MPS are more qualified than ever and are thinking of the interests of the nation, especially after last year’s bribery convictions. The only way is up now. I have heard from the Opposition Leader, that as much as possible, he wants unity. He wants to give the government the opportunity to fulfill their plans. He doesn’t agree with motions of no confidence so long as the government is on the right track. He fully supports them and to me, this is good leadership.