By Godwin Ligo in Port Vila
New Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salawai has dedicated the sequence of events leading to his surprise election as the nation’s leader following last month’s snap election to the “will of God”.
“I believe that it was the will of God for the Parliament to be dissolved, snap general election held, a new Parliament formed and I was elected unopposed as the new Prime Minister by the Parliament with the new government in place today,” Salawai said during a special thanksgiving service held at the Catholic Cathedral in Port Vila yesterday.
“On January 22, 2016, the people of Vanuatu expressed their voice through their votes for a ‘change’ and that ‘change’ was evident through many young, highly educated and experienced young leaders who were voted in and are today leaders of this nation.”
Prime Minister Salawai emphasised in his remarks during the thanksgiving service and holy communion conducted by Bishop Jean Bosco Barames, for the new Prime Minister Salwai and the state ministers in the new government.
President Baldwin Lonsdale, state ministers, Chief Justice Malvatumauri, church representatives, chiefs and community leaders with crowds of people from different churches and islands filled the Cathedral that forced hundreds of others to stand outside during the church service.
After the church service, Salawai and the VIPs were traditionally welcomed by a Central Pentecost custom dance before the new Prime Minister was ceremonially presented with a Pentecost red custom mat before making a speech.
“We appreciated the spiritual support to us through the thanksgiving service today. God is the foundation of all things in life. Whatever churches we belong to and the baptism we have received, God is the source of life and everything.
Traditional Melanesian values
“The Preamble of our Constitution makes it clear that the establishment of the Free Republic of Vanuatu is found on the traditional Melanesian values and the Christian principles.
“Therefore, in everyday life we live, we must put God first before we carry on with our jobs and the developments of our nation,” said PM Salawai.
“The government which I am leading, was formed on Thursday, 11 February 2016 and it is a government that desires to unite as far as possible, the members of parliament of various political parties,” he said.
He continued: “This is a challenge for the leaders of all political parties to maintain political stability in order to continue to unite every members of parliament. Here, I wish to register my thanks and appreciation to the leaders of all political parties who decided and agreed that I will lead the new government of our country. Their decision drove the consensus within the parliament on Thursday during my election as Prime Minister.
“But I also wish to stress that we the Members of Parliament did not have much choice, because the people of Vanuatu had already spoken during the 22 January 2016 snap general election which had shown that more than two-thirds of the Members of Parliament are new MPs who are well educated citizens whom the government trusts and who at the same time bring in change in Vanuatu political landscape with hope to bring about much desired changes that people of Vanuatu want to see and expect to happen in our nation.
“The challenges we are facing today are real, many and important. We cannot overcome these challenges easily and quickly. But the government wishes to assure the people of Vanuatu that it will introduce every measure to overcome these challenges,” Salawai vowed.
Godwin Ligo is a senior journalist with the Vanuatu Daily Post.