Father Walter Lini Day – Vanuatu’s First Prime Minister
(Let’s Pull Together)
New Hebrides was the original name of the now independent Republic of Vanuatu, a name given to the group of islands in 1774 by Captain Cook and a name that lasted over 2 centuries.
Fast-forward over 200 years and following political turmoil, a rise of nationalism in the islands and challenges to the government from the native community, the Republic of Vanuatu was created and independence celebrated.
Inspired by the leadership of an Anglican Priest, on the 30th of June 1980, New Hebrides was no more and the Republic of Vanuatu, under Father Walter Lini’s leadership was founded.
Father Lini was born in Pentecost, an island located 190 kilometers from Port Vila and more popularly known as the spiritual place of Bungee Jumping.
He spent part of his adolescence in New Zealand, in where he studied for the Anglican priesthood and in time became an Anglican Priest.
In 1979, Father Lini was appointed Chief Minister and on the 30th July 1980, after Vanuatu gained its independence from France and the United Kingdom, Father Walter Lini ascended to the newly created position of Prime Minister. A position he kept until the 6th September 1987.
“We will go beyond pandemonium to the independence of a free Pacific Islands territory, and look forward to taking our place among the nations of the world”
Father Walter Hadye Lini – Port Vila, July 1980
For over 7 years, Prime Minister Walter Lini was re-elected twice in 1983 and again in 1987 and stepped down from office in 1991, once his term had ended.
Some of his great achievements, apart from being an instrumental advocate towards Vanuatu’s independence, were to strongly oppose nuclear testing within the region, provided support to the Kanak indigenous liberation movement and support the right of East Timor to self-determination.
He was also an advocate of Melanesian Socialism, in where communal welfare over individualism as well as communal ownership and working of land were beneficial to the community and would aid to preserve values and land for future generations.
Popularly known as the father of Independence, Father Lini’s vision, leadership and commitment to his country has made him an unforgettable spiritual figure for Vanuatu.
Father Walter Hadye Lini, an Anglican Priest that became Prime Minister, passed away on the 21st February 1999, a date that in where Vanuatu celebrate the loss of a country man with a dream for their people and future generations to be the owners of their destiny.