40 years ago, we achieved what seemed undeniably impossible and unachievable, but in the eyes of our founding fathers it involved more than just handshakes and public protests.

It was the indomitable will to stand tall and reclaim back what is rightly ours from the dual colonial governance of France and Britain.

The unidealistic period of Independence was set after World War II in the early 1970s when the power struggle developed between the Colonialists and the New Hebrideans.

If anyone saw the strength of the Colonial influence during that time, it was mainly the people from Efate.

Former politician Barak Tame Sopé Mautamata was amongst the few leaders who had walked beside the Great Leaders on the road to Independence.

Barak Sopé from Ifira Island was born in 1951.

The 69-year-old politician was the Leader of the Melanesian Progressive Party (MPP) until 2008.

He was elected into Parliament for Efate Rural Constituency in 1983 and preceded to be re-elected until 2004.

He was the 5th Prime Minister of Vanuatu and the Minister of Public Service and remained in office from November 25th 1999 – April 13th 2001 when he was deposed by Parliament over a no-confidence vote.

Sopé returned to the cabinet in December 2004 as the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries when the Government of Ham Lini took office.

He was also appointed as the Minister for Agriculture and Forestry, later on, he was removed from office on February 28th 2005.

His political reign ended in the September 2008 Election but his legacy of governance for the struggle of Independence lives on.

Sopé was in 11th grade in Onesua College when he was awarded a Scholarship to study in Australia Secondary School from 1962-1963.

Later on, he was awarded another scholarship to fund his tertiary studies at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji.

In 1973, Sopé graduated with a Degree in Politics and Public Administration.

After his graduation, he returned to the New Hebrides and worked with the British Administration.

He was then employed as the Assistant General Manager of the newly formed Cooperative Association and assisted George Kalpoko Kalsakau, who was the General Manager in setting up the cooperative.

Their hard work was paid off with the instalment of more than 200 Cooperatives in the New Hebrides during that time.

His interest in politics began at his home island in Ifira.

“At that time, the British had established their headquarters at Iririki Island and as common practise, it was compulsory for the English to raise their flags every morning.

“The French on the other hand, performed their flag raising at the Head of State’s Office.

Sopé strongly believes Colonialism is a racist Government based entirely on racism.

“My father was in his 60s yet the colonists were calling him a boy. The disrespect was uncalled for.”

At some point during the Colonial period, in the late 60s, the French were testing their nuclear bombs in Tahiti.

As a student Ambassador, Sopé had attended conferences that debated against nuclear testing in the Pacific.

He was part of the Anti-colonial Movement that protested against any means necessary done by the Colonial powers that required resolving.

At some stage in his life, he was being monitored by the French and British and was labelled as Security Risk People.

“Whether in Fiji or Vanuatu, we would have people following and monitoring us.

“Sure we were aware of the circumstances we’d face should we ever get caught, but we remained firm and continued with our undisclosed plans.

“Over the years, we have had secret allies from inside the Colonial administrations.

“One of our sources was a cook working at Iririki who supplied legally binding information from meetings and conferences conducted within the British headquarters.

“We have also caught many rats within our rebellion movement, but instead of disposing of them, we used them to our advantage and regained information on who was really spying on us.”

In 1975, during some rallies in Port Vila and Santo, Father Walter Lini announced that “Independence is coming.”

The declaration had caused some breakaways and uproars from Opposition groups that it was too early.

“The focus was then shifted to leading more meetings and seminars in the islands to encourage the people on the benefits of our country gaining its Independence.”

One of the challenges faced was language barrier when intervening into communities.

“Despite it all, we managed to get the message across.

“We met with chiefs and performed custom ceremonies to allow our group into their villages.

“The best part was the France and Britain did not notice anything.

“With over 100 languages, native speaking is probably the best camouflaged method to passing information around.

“So, we should be proud of our mother tongues, since the British and French have only two languages, we have over a hundred diverse languages.”

During the Independence period, the French had to send in some troops to minimize the movements of the rebellion forces.

The VP then decided the date for the Independence was to be on July 30th 1980.

“If we waited too long, the French would destroy our work.”

At the time, the French had also bought in the Vietnamese workers to work in plantations in Vanuatu and because of the poor treatments made to the people, they joined force with the New Hebrideans to fight for our Independence.

Sadly, the French had deported all the Vietnamese back to their country.

Over the years, the New Hebrides had gained Cuba’s support since the country was the Chairman of the UN Organising Committee.

In support, Cuba was able to put New Hebrides in the Organising Committee and the British and French had no choice but to agree.

“According to the UN Regulations, we were a colony.”

From there, Vanuatu was registered in the Decolonisation Committee under Walter Lini’s name.

“A lot of countries in the UN had no idea of the state that New Hebrides was in, during our travels, we received extensive support from other countries.

“During our travels, our paper of identification was classified as stateless, we used this to our advantage as a source of evidence during our meeting with the UN and presented it to the Decolonization Committee.

“Most of the countries in the UN were ex-colonialists and didn’t at first support us, so we had to seek support from the General Assembly.

“Plus, we were only allowed to visit UN in the 70s and since we were not listed, we had to fight for that position.

“We also used the conflicting disunion between Britain and France as an advantage to win negotiations with the UN.

“It was a difficult period of time, especially to decolonize a small island nation that is governed by two colonial giants.”

In the late 70s, VP had boycotted the Parliament.

“One of the reason was we wanted Independence in 1975, the other reason was we believe the first assembly formed was not democratic.

“We envisioned an Election where everyone can vote freely, not handpicked by the Colonial Administrations.”

After the boycott, the Government of National Unity was formed. This particular Government had equal sides of representatives from each party (both VP and UMP) and from the Colonial Administration (both Britain and France).

“As a Condominium, we were required to visit both Capitals to share our ideas and give reports on the welfare of our country and to negotiate on gaining our Independence, it was difficult since both countries share differences, but at the end of the day, both Colonial powers had agreed to sign the Constitution.”

After the 1980, the Nagriamel Movement had sparked a rebellion in Santo, since the population were mostly French nationalists living there, they influenced Jimmy Stevens to rebelling against the Independence.

“Originally, Jimmy Stevens was one of the influential leaders talking about Independence before any of them ever did.”

In 1988, Sope had joined the newly formed Melanesian Progressive Party (MPP).

“When Jimmy Stevens was arrested, we made a petition that won over 10,000 signatures and was presented to PM Walter Lini to release the Nagriamel leader.

“The petition worked and Jimmy Stevens was released.”

To end the rebellion, the Government needs to deport all the French nationalists living in Santo.

A total number of over 6,000 nationalists were deported from Santo and 10,000 from Tanna island.

“We were grateful for a strong, fearless leader like Walter Lini, who won the favour of many and as an Anglican priest, he had aforementioned during his sermons that this Independence will witness less bloodsheds, as compared to other countries, there won’t be a lot of deaths recorded.”

Sope would like to encourage Government leaders that after the Independence, the problem was 80% of the population were illiterate.

“Our Government needs to change its policies and specialise more in finding alternatives that encourages people to read and write.

“It’s true we have gained our political independence, but in the long run, we still have not gained our economic independence.

“The lingering issue that remains is the fact that our population increases faster than the economic developments of our country.

“If we want to develop our country we need to invest more into Education, thus our young scholars and graduates will contribute to the growth of our economy.”

Independence Greetings:

Barak Tame Sope would like to remind the people that unity should be practised at all times in churches, nakamals, communities, parliament and in your own home during this 40th Anniversary.

“A united Government promotes peace and prosperous within the country.

“I would like to wish all the people who struggled for the Independence and to all the people of the nation a joyful Independence celebration, let us preserve the peace and unity for the next 40 years.”

40 years ago, we achieved what seemed undeniably impossible and unachievable, but in the eyes of our founding fathers it involved more than just handshakes and public protests.

It was the indomitable will to stand tall and reclaim back what is rightly ours from the dual colonial governance of France and Britain.

The unidealistic period of Independence was set after World War II in the early 1970s when the power struggle developed between the Colonialists and the New Hebrideans.

If anyone saw the strength of the Colonial influence during that time, it was mainly the people from Efate.

Former politician Barak Tame Sopé Mautamata was amongst the few leaders who had walked beside the Great Leaders on the road to Independence.

Barak Sopé from Ifira Island was born in 1951.

The 69-year-old politician was the Leader of the Melanesian Progressive Party (MPP) until 2008.

He was elected into Parliament for Efate Rural Constituency in 1983 and preceded to be re-elected until 2004.

He was the 5th Prime Minister of Vanuatu and the Minister of Public Service and remained in office from November 25th 1999 – April 13th 2001 when he was deposed by Parliament over a no-confidence vote.

Sopé returned to the cabinet in December 2004 as the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries when the Government of Ham Lini took office.

He was also appointed as the Minister for Agriculture and Forestry, later on, he was removed from office on February 28th 2005.

His political reign ended in the September 2008 Election but his legacy of governance for the struggle of Independence lives on.

Sopé was in 11th grade in Onesua College when he was awarded a Scholarship to study in Australia Secondary School from 1962-1963.

Later on, he was awarded another scholarship to fund his tertiary studies at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji.

In 1973, Sopé graduated with a Degree in Politics and Public Administration.

After his graduation, he returned to the New Hebrides and worked with the British Administration.

He was then employed as the Assistant General Manager of the newly formed Cooperative Association and assisted George Kalpoko Kalsakau, who was the General Manager in setting up the cooperative.

Their hard work was paid off with the instalment of more than 200 Cooperatives in the New Hebrides during that time.

His interest in politics began at his home island in Ifira.

“At that time, the British had established their headquarters at Iririki Island and as common practise, it was compulsory for the English to raise their flags every morning.

“The French on the other hand, performed their flag raising at the Head of State’s Office.

Sopé strongly believes Colonialism is a racist Government based entirely on racism.

“My father was in his 60s yet the colonists were calling him a boy. The disrespect was uncalled for.”

At some point during the Colonial period, in the late 60s, the French were testing their nuclear bombs in Tahiti.

As a student Ambassador, Sopé had attended conferences that debated against nuclear testing in the Pacific.

He was part of the Anti-colonial Movement that protested against any means necessary done by the Colonial powers that required resolving.

At some stage in his life, he was being monitored by the French and British and was labelled as Security Risk People.

“Whether in Fiji or Vanuatu, we would have people following and monitoring us.

“Sure we were aware of the circumstances we’d face should we ever get caught, but we remained firm and continued with our undisclosed plans.

“Over the years, we have had secret allies from inside the Colonial administrations.

“One of our sources was a cook working at Iririki who supplied legally binding information from meetings and conferences conducted within the British headquarters.

“We have also caught many rats within our rebellion movement, but instead of disposing of them, we used them to our advantage and regained information on who was really spying on us.”

In 1975, during some rallies in Port Vila and Santo, Father Walter Lini announced that “Independence is coming.”

The declaration had caused some breakaways and uproars from Opposition groups that it was too early.

“The focus was then shifted to leading more meetings and seminars in the islands to encourage the people on the benefits of our country gaining its Independence.”

One of the challenges faced was language barrier when intervening into communities.

“Despite it all, we managed to get the message across.

“We met with chiefs and performed custom ceremonies to allow our group into their villages.

“The best part was the France and Britain did not notice anything.

“With over 100 languages, native speaking is probably the best camouflaged method to passing information around.

“So, we should be proud of our mother tongues, since the British and French have only two languages, we have over a hundred diverse languages.”

During the Independence period, the French had to send in some troops to minimize the movements of the rebellion forces.

The VP then decided the date for the Independence was to be on July 30th 1980.

“If we waited too long, the French would destroy our work.”

At the time, the French had also bought in the Vietnamese workers to work in plantations in Vanuatu and because of the poor treatments made to the people, they joined force with the New Hebrideans to fight for our Independence.

Sadly, the French had deported all the Vietnamese back to their country.

Over the years, the New Hebrides had gained Cuba’s support since the country was the Chairman of the UN Organising Committee.

In support, Cuba was able to put New Hebrides in the Organising Committee and the British and French had no choice but to agree.

“According to the UN Regulations, we were a colony.”

From there, Vanuatu was registered in the Decolonisation Committee under Walter Lini’s name.

“A lot of countries in the UN had no idea of the state that New Hebrides was in, during our travels, we received extensive support from other countries.

“During our travels, our paper of identification was classified as stateless, we used this to our advantage as a source of evidence during our meeting with the UN and presented it to the Decolonization Committee.

“Most of the countries in the UN were ex-colonialists and didn’t at first support us, so we had to seek support from the General Assembly.

“Plus, we were only allowed to visit UN in the 70s and since we were not listed, we had to fight for that position.

“We also used the conflicting disunion between Britain and France as an advantage to win negotiations with the UN.

“It was a difficult period of time, especially to decolonize a small island nation that is governed by two colonial giants.”

In the late 70s, VP had boycotted the Parliament.

“One of the reason was we wanted Independence in 1975, the other reason was we believe the first assembly formed was not democratic.

“We envisioned an Election where everyone can vote freely, not handpicked by the Colonial Administrations.”

After the boycott, the Government of National Unity was formed. This particular Government had equal sides of representatives from each party (both VP and UMP) and from the Colonial Administration (both Britain and France).

“As a Condominium, we were required to visit both Capitals to share our ideas and give reports on the welfare of our country and to negotiate on gaining our Independence, it was difficult since both countries share differences, but at the end of the day, both Colonial powers had agreed to sign the Constitution.”

After the 1980, the Nagriamel Movement had sparked a rebellion in Santo, since the population were mostly French nationalists living there, they influenced Jimmy Stevens to rebelling against the Independence.

“Originally, Jimmy Stevens was one of the influential leaders talking about Independence before any of them ever did.”

In 1988, Sope had joined the newly formed Melanesian Progressive Party (MPP).

“When Jimmy Stevens was arrested, we made a petition that won over 10,000 signatures and was presented to PM Walter Lini to release the Nagriamel leader.

“The petition worked and Jimmy Stevens was released.”

To end the rebellion, the Government needs to deport all the French nationalists living in Santo.

A total number of over 6,000 nationalists were deported from Santo and 10,000 from Tanna island.

“We were grateful for a strong, fearless leader like Walter Lini, who won the favour of many and as an Anglican priest, he had aforementioned during his sermons that this Independence will witness less bloodsheds, as compared to other countries, there won’t be a lot of deaths recorded.”

Sope would like to encourage Government leaders that after the Independence, the problem was 80% of the population were illiterate.

“Our Government needs to change its policies and specialise more in finding alternatives that encourages people to read and write.

“It’s true we have gained our political independence, but in the long run, we still have not gained our economic independence.

“The lingering issue that remains is the fact that our population increases faster than the economic developments of our country.

“If we want to develop our country we need to invest more into Education, thus our young scholars and graduates will contribute to the growth of our economy.”

Independence Greetings:

Barak Tame Sope would like to remind the people that unity should be practised at all times in churches, nakamals, communities, parliament and in your own home during this 40th Anniversary.

“A united Government promotes peace and prosperous within the country.

“I would like to wish all the people who struggled for the Independence and to all the people of the nation a joyful Independence celebration, let us preserve the peace and unity for the next 40 years.”

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