As a young compatriot, I view with interest our 40th year of independence anniversary.
40 years for a nation may seem young. To many it most certainly is the case, not least when compared to other more established nations in the world.
Our existence as a people in this part of world however, has stood the test of time itself.
For centuries, has our genetic footprint touched and graced the elements of this faraway archipelago.
It is in this lens therefore that I view this year as a milestone, an achievement to both cherish and celebrate.
My feeble attempts to understand the birth of Vanuatu leads me on a dwindling path down our country’s memory lane. One which consists of old news articles, semi archaic English publications, short video interviews and stimulating social media debates- those that manage to keep from rapidly deteriorating into anarchy and diatribe.
Needless to say there is a sense of exhilaration and jubilation in the air, even amidst an evident public rift on online social media decrying the 9-days long holiday as excess.
Without benefit of experience, I can all but only speculate about what life could have been like preindependence.
To claim understanding of our colonial past based on a few handfuls of historical perspectives, would be an over-statement not to mention careless behaviour, unbecoming of anyone under the age of 40.
Nonetheless, historical consensus seems to point to a dire situation which not only necessitated the need for independence but also helped spurt its urgency.
The rest is history as we know it.
40 years on, the view towards independence has much been the cause célèbre.
For many, the timing was impeccable, especially as land was under real threat of permanent alienation.
For others, however, the so called “moderates”, Christmas had come too early.
Notwithstanding the biases concomitant with any recorded history, I nonetheless differ with the minority sentiment on the issue of “timing”.
Dare I say, that resisting our colonial masters was justifiable and both the cause and course were in the end noble and very much so were timely in the manner they had been.
As such, I find views of discontent towards our formative years unhelpful and the cognate discourse futile, and if I may borrow the idiom — a “cry over spilled milk”.
In as much as I am wonderstruck and humbled by our “long walk to freedom”, I also observe with care not to romanticize our past.
Indeed the “walk” came not without a fair share of power squabbling and differences of opinion mired by betrayal, malice and questionable allegiances– protracted issues which have persisted to the present, even as they mark our collective shared inheritance.
It is therefore in this spirit that I make the injunction that we should look at that which unites us – our shared
history and a common future, and to hold it with precedence over the points on which we differ.
The contemporary “man” or “woman” Vanuatu as I see it, should be as integrated enough to not only appreciate
but also actively participate in the diversity of opinion, culture, tribe, family, language and belief system of lineage yet consciously choose to engage responsibly and to act with nobility and modesty towards their fellow.
We are a nation, lest we forget and that my fellow citizen, requires active participation and meaningful contribution on the part of everyone — men and woman alike. We are all in this together.
Our emergence out of the woodwork of colonialism does not necessarily equate to being out-of-the-woods.
Far from it.
One has only to look at the myriad of challenges confronting us right now to recognize that independence is just the tip of the ice-berg.
At the outset, our forefathers may have indeed perceived of the hard times ahead.
I would suspect however that none in their wildest imagination would have gone to the extent of envisioning a global shut-down.
These are unprecedented times.
Exacerbated by our fragile economy and vulnerability to natural disasters, means we are most certain to encounter more frequent desperate times in the future.
Our much loathed citizenship investment program is the epitome of “desperate times call for desperate measures”.
How we chart our course through turbulent times ahead will be a test of leadership, will and character the likes of which we are yet to see.
But I digress.
Many may be familiar with the Biblical story of the Israelites who endured 40 years of chaos before setting foot onto the land of milk and honey.
Only few may be aware that Moses was 40 when he fled the sword of Pharaoh in Egypt, went into hiding for 40 more years before re-emerging to lead the Israelites into exodus and freedom.
Thus, 40 years is a call to coalesce and venture- out of the comfort zone, into the unknown. A time where gold
will be tested with fire, a time of moulding, refinement and shaping. The beginning of a journey that will last many lifetimes.
In a notable stroke of brilliance our founding fathers enlightened, had this in scripted on our founding tablet: a nation build on Melanesian values, faith in God and Christian Principles.
In our 40th independence anniversary, let us not lose sight of the beacon. May it reverberate with fervour 40
more years to come .. and more.
I say no more.
Put on your cap of patriotism and celebrate like you never before.
Happy Independence Day!
Your fellow Ni-Van.