Anniversary of Vanuatu’s reclamation of Matthew and Hunter Islands celebrated today

Vanuatu's flag flies over Hunter Island, 9th March 1983. Photo: Bob Makin

Vanuatu’s flag flies over Hunter Island, 1:30pm, 9th March 1983. Photo: Bob Makin

9 March is Matthew and Hunter Day. At 1:30 pm on that day in 1983 the Vanuatu flag was hoisted on Hunter Island, known to the people of Aneityum as Leka, and the national anthem sung as the active volcano was reclaimed for Tafea, Matthew and Hunter being uninhabited remote outliers of the southernmost province.

The two islands had been administered by France from the French Residency, Port Vila, during Condominium times, but as became apparent when the Dunkerquoise threatened to fire on Euphrosyne as the Vanuatu government vessel reached Matthew in 1983, France was determined to hold on to the two outliers as if they belonged to New Caledonia.

But the flag had been raised — on Hunter Island, the previous day.

It was thought a ceremony was to be organized for the day today, but that is being delayed for some weeks. Those who were on the flag raising expedition are hoping it might mean there has been some progress with France in discussions concerning the ownership of the two islands. PM Salwai achieved a kastom solution to the border between the Solomons and Vanuatu and it is thought he might be working towards something similar with New Caledonia.

Certainly both islands and the underwater volcanoes between Aneityum and Hunter are part of the Pacific Plate, while New Caledonia belongs to the Australasian Plate. That’s the solution provided by Mother Nature, and the Aneityumese of course have many kastom stories of fishing voyages of long ago to the outliers.

There may be a solution to the problem yet this year as PM Salwai wants – and then there might be something to celebrate, rather than just an anniversary.

In other current news, yesterday was a very fitting day for the presentation of the Andy Lynch and Hanson Mataskelekele Awards for women in leadership roles. Women achieving is what International Women’s Day (8 March) is all about, here, this year. Jocelyn Naupa from Erromango won the Andy Lynch Award for her outstanding voluntary service over 15 years to end gender based violence and empower women. Adela Issacher Aru from Efate received the Hanson Mataskelekele Award for her efforts to promote sustainable tourism and empower local tourism operators. Australian High Commissioner Jenny Da Rin presented the awards and pointed out Australia’s commitment to gender equality. (Daily Post)