Late President Baldwin Lonsdale

Late President Womtelo Reverend Baldwin Lonsdale

By Godwin Ligo

In September 2014, Vanuatu was seeking a new President.

The Electoral College made up of Members of Parliament (MPs) and the Presidents of the six provincial councils and the two municipalities were called upon to elect the new President for the Republic of Vanuatu, a figurehead who will assume and maintain the responsibilities of ensuring justice, peace and unity prevail in the nation.

Among the candidates, was Father Baldwin Womtelo Lonsdale (late President) from Torba who at the time occupied the position of the Torba Provincial Council Secretary General (SG), a senior government executive position in the Province.

He was largely known in Torba and the Anglican Community in Vanuatu, in the region and abroad as Father Baldwin Lonsdale.

It took eight rounds of votes by the Electoral College, before Father Baldwin Lonsdale emerged victoriously in a unanimous vote as the new President of the Republic of Vanuatu on September 22, 2014.

He was born on August 5, 1948 at his home village of Nereningman, Motalava Island, in Torba Province.

He was among 11 children of whom six were girls and five were boys. He was married to late Lilian Sarginson Lonsdale (deceased).

They had six children, according to one of surviving brothers’ grandchild.

He began his education at Motalava Primary School from 1959- 1963.

He attended Saint Patrick’s Anglican College, Vureas on Ambae from 1964-1967.

His academic records include; Diploma in Scholar of Theology and Diploma with Honors from Bishop Patterson’s College in the Solomon Islands and Saint John’s College in Auckland, New Zealand, respectively.

He began his working career with former Burns Philip Company in Port Vila from 1972-1975 then recruited into the British National Services where he served in the Establishment Division from 1968-1972.

He held the position as Teacher and Principal of Torgil Rural Training Centre from 1987 to 1991 then joined the Vanuatu Government as National Youth Coordinator from 1991 to 1998.

He left and took up the position of Secretary General of Torba Provincial Government from 1998 to 2006.

He served in various positions of Priesthood in the Anglican Church in Vanuatu.

In 2014 Father Baldwin Lonsdale was elected President of the Republic of Vanuatu- a position held held until his death last Saturday morning.

After his appointment as President he was bestowed with the name “Womtelo” by elders from his island, which means “eye of the sun”.

Upon assuming office, the late President Womtelo Reverend Baldwin Lonsdale, attended to numerous presidential duties including; receiving foreign diplomats and presentation of their credentials, speaking at official, diplomatic and public functions, educational and youth, women and churches functions, paying visits to the provinces and islands of Vanuatu where he spoke to the people and learnt of their aspirations, hosting independence celebration official presidential cocktails, travelling to the islands and awarding many leaders and individuals for their good work for the country before, during and after independence and paying overseas visits on invitations from within the region as well as beyond the Pacific.

One of his mandatory functions was delivering official speeches during the annual first ordinary sessions of parliament, a time when the late President made numerous challenging statements and remarks to the Members of Parliament on his views on religious, political, social and economic, educational, health and many other national issues.

He was the 22nd Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific (USP) in 2015.

He had a strong vision for the young generation of Vanuatu.

During the emerging youth leaders of Melanesia program, the late President Baldwin Lonsdale’s message to the young people of Melanesia rung out throughout the region of Melanesia and the Pacific as well as beyond. He stated: “All countries in the pacific, especially within Melanesia are in desperate need for vibrant, responsible, ethical thinkers and young God-fearing future leaders.

“Melanesian countries experienced all forms of leadership since independence.

“Melanesians are now governing their people based on their constitutions. As education and knowledge and wisdom increases, abler leadership begins to challenge the traditional view of leadership.

“Then emerge the desire to be able to take over leadership from the existing one. Hence lead to the establishment of the high number of political parties due to breakaways from original parties, resulting in the fragmentation of the major political parties, which then led to coalition government in the many Melanesian states, one after another.

“Out from this background came the need to revive the true spirit of leadership that is responsible, ethical and proactive,” was a call by the late President for new and emerging leaders in Melanesia.

The Daily Post was able to speak to one of his brothers, Royson Lonsdale, at their village in Nereningman, Motalava Island in Torba.

“Before I share something about our humble family, I wish first of all to register our family’s sincere appreciation to the Members of Parliament, the National Government, the Opposition and the people of Vanuatu, for electing our late brother to become the President of our nation and the honour and respect he received until his passing away.

“We want the leaders and the people of Vanuatu to know our feelings and that is that the late President Baldwin Lonsdale, really belonged to the nation and the people of Vanuatu.

“He was one of the 11 children from same father and mother.

“While our father loved all his children, Father Baldwin Lonsdale, was his most favourite.

“While we all played together and share everything together, we were brought up under strict control by our parents because they were devoted Christians and desired their children to be brought up in well behaved manner.

“And quite interesting enough whenever 11 of us have a quarrel over something, it was always Father Baldwin Lonsdale, that would stepped in and put an end to our quarrel and bring peace back into our brotherly and sisterly circle.

“He was always interested in reading and would try his best to read and pronounce words from Dad’s books and the Bible while the other 10 of us had interest in other things such as fishing, and traditional games and such.

“Our family wishes to thank all Christians and individuals in Vanuatu for your prayers and support in every way during his time as President until his passing away,” the President’s brother, Royson Lonsdale, expressed to the Daily Post last Saturday afternoon.

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