Behind The Fight For Freedom

Kalkot Mataskelekele Mauliliu

A man of culture with exceptional leadership skills, Kalkot Mataskelekele Mauliliu is one of the few remaining founding fathers that struggled for the freedom of our nation and has succeeded in every way possible.

Mataskelekele originally from Tongoa/Ifira was born in April 24th 1949.

The 71-year-old has succeeded his political years as the 6th President of the Republic of Vanuatu from August 16th 2004 – August 16th 2009.

During his 5 years of political governance, he served under three Prime Ministers: Edward Natapei, Serge Vohor and Ham Lini.

In 1969, during his University year in Fiji, Mataskelekele had met with Jimmy Stevens who took the liberty to discuss his vision behind the Nagriamel Movement and the significant importance of our country standing up against the colonial powers of France and Britain.

This brief encounter later on aspired him to join politics.

When asked about his inspiration and the constant energy that drives his efforts in joining the National Party that fought for our Independence, he recalled back in the olden days in Port Vila, when he and his classmates would sneak into plantations to forge for food and were deliberately chased away by the colonialists who shouted: “Get out of our land!”

It was at this moment, he knew despite all attempts of a rational world of colonial peace, there was no freedom for the natives, it was all a misconception.

During his travels to the University, they had to carry their certificates of identity (passport) which at that time bore no status.

“The Fijians have printed on their cards the term: British Subject whereas in Noumea, the citizens were regarded as French Subjects.

“But in our cards, we weren’t subject to anyone, we were stateless.”

He believed it is the desire for freedom that provoked and inspired him to fight for our political Independence.

In August 1971, the New Hebrides National Party (NHNP) was amongst the first to be established.

As a young activist, Mataskelekele has served under the National Party at the end of 1971, after graduating from Scotch College in Melbourne, Australia.

It was also in 1971 that the Nagriamel Movement in Santo led by Jimmy Stevens petitioned the United Nations Organization to grant independence to the people of the New Hebrides with Nagriamel as the Government, despite all efforts, the petition was uncalled for.

In 1972, Mataskelekele started his first job as the Secretary of the Sub Committee in Port Vila.

His work required travelling around Efate, visiting each village and community to talk and spread the decisive intuitions and the benefits of gaining our Independence.

In 1973, he was granted a British Scholarship and has requested the British Government to fund his studies in Papua New Guinea since the University of the South Pacific did not offer Law courses.

“By the beginning of 1974, the New Hebrides National Party alone could claim a following from all the main islands of the group, while the support for the other relatively younger parties centred mainly on the urban areas.”

In 1975, he left University for a year to work more closely with the National Party.

After being appointed as the Assistant Secretary General of NHNP, he was tasked to assist in the first Municipal Election in Port Vila Town in August 1975.

At that time, Late Father Walter Lini was the NHNP President with Barak Sope was the Secretary General.

His job was to help organise the people and to assist in running the party-political campaigns for the grand Election.

In fact, he was also responsible in running the first Representative Assembly for the New Hebrides.

In April 1976, Mataskelekele had depicted the conception of façade democracy after the establishment of a rudimentary Advisory Council in 1975.

The function of the Council was solely advisory and were taken merely at the discretion of the two Resident Commissioners.

He stated in paper: “The lack of expansion of the Council’s powers is an indication of the reluctance of Britain and France to give more powers of decision-making to wider electorates… the electorates were limited to local councillors who were much influenced by the colonial administrators in the Districts.”

This prejudicial perception shows the limited power given to the New Hebrideans in terms of any constitutional development.

He further explained “when two colonial powers cannot even agree as to how a group of natives ought to be colonised, then colonialism is not a strong enough word to describe the situation.

“A result is that the process of reaction against colonial forces in the New Hebrides by New Hebrideans takes on a particular psychological form that may not be easy to understand.”

In 1977, the New Hebrides National Party had changed its name to Vanua’aku Party (VP).

The name Vanua’aku derives with many meanings, “from ‘graon blo yumi’ (our land) to ‘island blo yumi’ (our islands).”

During the 1979 signing of the Constitution, Mataskelekele became the Chairman of VP and later on, took the role of an Information Officer who was mainly in charge of the Newspaper, which at that time was called – Viewpoints.

In 1981, he successfully graduated as a Lawyer with a Degree in Law at the University of Papua New Guinea.

Theoretically speaking, Mataskelekele is the first Head of State of Vanuatu to have a University Degree.

After graduating, he worked at the office of the Attorney General as a lawyer.

In 1985, he was admitted permanently with his colleagues as lawyers of the Supreme Court.

Mataskelekele was 55-years-old when he was appointed as the Head of State in 2004 – 2009, after winning 49 votes from a total of 56.

When his presidential reign ended, he resumed his occupation as a lawyer and worked in a private business from 2010-2011.

In November 2012, Mataskelekele was appointed as the 5th Ombudsman and served during a period of 5 eventful years.

He admitted his work was not successful as compared to his previous successors, as recorded, his time in office had the lowest number of reports filed.

“There was a lot of backlog case files from past overseers that needed sorting, we had to clear out all the forgotten reports and complaints before focusing on the current status at hand.”

He claimed his foremost achievement during his years as Ombudsman was filing the report of the Bribery Case in 2015 which involved the 14 Members of Parliament convicted and jailed for Bribery and Corruption.

Mataskelekele would like to share his condolences to Mr Alan Monrose, who passed away recently this month. Mr Monrose had served under his leadership as Ombudsman and was in charge of writing of Bribery reports of 2015. He extends his condolences to Mr Monrose’s family from Central Pentecost during this unfortunate time.

However, he emphasized the challenges were unanticipated that even though the Ombudsman Office was characterized under Public Service, as seen in the Constitution, Chapter 9, Part 1: Public Service, Part 2: Ombudsman, there were some specified gaps that needed resolving.

The Ombudsman background as stated by the Public Service described the office should have an employment of 35 working staff, “but in reality, when I took my seat as Ombudsman, the number of available employees at hand was undersized with only 9 manual personnel, which slows the progression of work that was required.”

“Today, we oversee these challenges with the expansion of the Ombudsman Office and the current recruitment of a good number of diligent working force.”

During his time in Office, Mataskelekele had served four Prime Ministers: Sato Kilman, Joe Natuman, Moana Carcasses and Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas.

In reality, Mataskelekele believes in the Philosophy of Kastom Governance which strictly revokes all constitutional powers under 3 models:

1. Kastom Governance requires no Election.

2. Kastom Governance requires no Opposition.

3. Kastom Governance requires no ‘motion of no-confidence.’

He clarified that “Kastom Governance exists long before colonial rule, it is based on reality and over the years, becomes forgotten.”

In January 1975, five years before the Independence, two Minsters from the Colonial Governments, Olivier Stirn from France and Joan Lestor from Britain visited New Hebrides and made a statement during a public press conference at the Constitutional Building in Port Vila.

Their statement covered the concerns of ‘political evolution’ following the ‘democratic principles’ which the Government of France and Britain required the New Hebrides to follow.

In his response, late Father Walter Hadye Lini as the Leader of the Independence Movement during that time answered, “the United Kingdom and the Republic of France wished to offer Democracy to the New Hebrides, but what type of Democracy are they talking about? Since the New Hebrides already has a Governance system, which is the belief of Melanesian Democracy.”

Though there were challenges that arose in the way, nonetheless Kastom Governance was a powerful influence back in the days, before the spread of Westernization in the Pacific.

Mataskelekele stated, “Indeed, the New Hebrides is a unique country with a unique kind of madness. But not all New Hebridean accept this imposition – and uprisings, little or large, anti-religious or anit-government are the expressions of people who look towards island customs and cultures as their source of unity and replenishment.

“In the face of the dual and divisive educational systems, the call for New Hebridean unity in the island traditionalism is the most obvious way to combat and assess the encroachment of Westernism.”

He added that to combine Democracy and Kastom Governance is a challenge.

“The Parliament is its own body along with the Council of Ministers (COM) and the Justice System whereas Kastom has everything under one leadership.”

Mataskelekele is also a supporter for Women in Politics and urges the Parliament to look more into the affairs of women.

“Most Political Parties forbids or gives less interest to female leaders contesting, this is one challenge that needs to be evaluated.”

Independence Greetings:

During this 40th year of our Independence Anniversary, Kalkot Mataskelekele Mauliliu encourages the people of the Republic of Vanuatu to be mindful and to contribute to their best of their ability in whatever area they are in life, whether they are:

Teachers – to give their 100% in educating our future generations.

Journalists – to report any conflicting issues that needs to be addressed without fear.

Accountants – to do everything that requires of the company in order to promote its services in the long-run.

Civil Servants – to try your best to work in a way where the nation requires it.

Business Workers – to find ways to help contribute to the development of the economy and to do it fairly.

Politicians – to find ways to build the economy, to serve the people and to solve commercial challenges.

“I would like to wish His Excellency, the President and his family, the Ministers, the Leader of Judiciary Chief Justice, President of Malvatumauri Council of Chiefs Willie Plasua, National Council of Women, Church leaders and to the people of the nation a happy, peaceful and joyful 40th anniversary of Independence.”

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