President Lonsdale opens Parliament with “new chart for Vanuatu’s destiny”

President Baldwin Lonsdale. Photo: supplied

“Trust requires responsibility”, says President Baldwin Lonsdale. Photo: supplied

Desite announcements from VBTC of 100% radio coverage of the country, all transmissions of Radio Vanuatu were unable to broadcast from the early hours of this morning: FM, medium wave and short wave. However, just as President Baldwin Lonsdale began the traditional opening speech of the House normal broadcast resumed on FM – until near the end. Some fifteen minutes of this challenging and moving address were lost at that time.

Head of State Baldwin Lonsdale opened a “new chart for Vanuatu’s destiny” with congratulations to the elected Members of Parliament, entering the national legislature through the doors provided. He congratulated the Prime Minister coming to his post because of his successful relations with the people. He also foresaw the Leader of the Opposition having an ability to guide government. On behalf of the people of Vanuatu he congratulated the 52 who had received the trust of the people and observed how that trust requires a responsibility. The national interest must come first, the Head of State insisted. The events leading up to the snap general election showed people need a change. He saw the newly elected leaders as young and well-educated, the veteran politicians handing over authority to new and younger leaders from both the private and public sectors.

In his new chart for Vanuatu’s destiny, the President sees the topmost area for reform as being political instability. Political instability has been financially burdensome and greatly affecting established policy change. Parliament must be the first to ensure the stability of the nation. The corruption we have seen is an abuse of public trust for private gain, President Lonsdale pointed out. Political stability will only be achieved if MPs ensure the best interests of the people are followed. The perennial motions of no confidence have taken place without following the legal provisions governing them, the President said.

Registration of political parties is important to enable our democracy to be strong. Registration will assist both transparency and justice. President Lonsdale spoke of a need to make the advice of others important to the House. He began with municipal leaders since he was subsequently to refer to the towns needing better physical planning to prevent haphazard squatter suburbs being established because of urban drift. “Hard work can be lost, and investors discouraged”, he said. He was particularly concerned by government’s failure to provide adequate services, starting with the health department’s failure to provide sufficient health equipment in the remote provinces.

Near the end of his speech, before Radio Vanuatu FM transmission was again lost, President Lonsdale called on government to revisit the Officials Salaries Act and the work of the Remuneration Tribunal. The failures apparent here have led to serious differences within the services of government. He drew attention to the 1980 rebellion claims which had not been met, the outstandings owed to the fishermen, and the VNPF 1998 riot compensations still unpaid.

Throughout his speech, the Head of State was clearly seeing the responsibility of running Vanuatu as the responsibility of all MPs, and not just that of the Council of Ministers. It is to be hoped his new charter can be made available by all media without delay.