“Freedom is an expensive achievement and after 36 years of freedom as declared by the Constitution on October 5 of 1979, I wish to state that no man, no woman, no leader is above the law.”
President Baldwin Lonsdale made the statement in the annual ceremony to mark Constitution Day at the Constitution Place in front of the Government Building yesterday, where the original Founders signed the first ever document on October 5, 36 years ago.
The President said, “I now appeal to all Members of Parliament, leaders of all Provinces, chiefs and students of all schools and mothers and fathers and children throughout the country, to obey the Constitution and uphold the national values as worded by the founders and enshrined in the Constitution”.
Without the Constitution, the country would not have gained its political freedom from the colonial administrators Britain and France on July 30 of 1980. Freedom came after 74 years of colonial rule during which indigenous people were stateless in their own country.
It is important that those who were born after 1980 know the names of the founders who wrote the Constitution.
Many of them have already passed on and the Head of State asked for a minute of silence for the following late members; Father Gerard Leymang, Father Walter Lini, Michel Bernast, George Kaltoi Kalsakau, John Kalotrip Kalotiti, Aime Malere, Walter Tulangi, Grace Molisa, John Naupa, Guy Prevot, Chief Ringiau, Thomas Reuben, Onneyn Tahi, Morrison Tangarasi, Pastor Fred Timakata, Louis Vatu, Chief Willie Bongmatur, Father George Worek and Jean-Marie Leye.
The Head of State said, “Fellow citizens, dignitaries and partners of Vanuatu, I invite you all to pause to ponder the contributions of the founders who have now passed on, for the good examples and services that they had rendered towards shaping our nation.
“We also take this time to ponder the same contributions by those founders who, we are so blessed, to still have among us today. Let us think about how they became united under one goal despite their differences (of being Francophone and Anglophone), to spend sleepless nights together to draft the Constitution at record breaking speed, to prepare it to pave the way for freedom”.
The signing of the Constitution confirmed that independence was imminent, which arrived nine months later.
“To you founders who are still among us, I salute you all. You are Madeline Kalchichi Bakokoto, Maxime Carlot Korman, Barak Tame Sope, Donald Kalpokas, Kalkot Mataskelekele, Chief Moli Tasitamata, MP Joe Natuman, Pastor John Sethy Regenvanu, George Sokomanu, George Pakoa Tarimanu, Chief Tom Tipolomata and Chief Vincent Boulekone,” he said.
The President said Vanuatu today is their product.
“While you are among us, I plead with you to tell your story to today’s generation, of your vision of how you wrote the Constitution to pave the way for our national freedom,” he said.
“It is vital to ensure that we do not drift away from the paramount values which bound us together to achieve our freedom in 1980.”
To add cream to the cake of his message, the Head of State said now 30 years on every citizen must live according to the law.
“The signing of the Constitution on October 5 of 1979, laid the foundation for the country to build on. It proved that despite the upheavals on the eve of freedom, yet we were able to achieve our independence on July 30 of 1980,” he said.
October 5 is a day not to be abused to go to the garden or on a picnic. To remember that freedom is precious because blood was spilled and lives were lost in the process to win it.