Unprecedented outpouring of grief at funeral for President Lonsdale


The people of Vanuatu showed their love for President Baldwin Lonsdale who died on 17 June by turning out in their thousands for his funeral and procession to the airport.

His sudden death was as a result of a heart attack. He was 67.

Lonsdale, who served as president from 22 September 2014 until he died, was also an Anglican priest.

James Melvin Ligo, the Anglican bishop of Vanuatu and Patterson Woreck, the Anglican bishop of Banks and Torres conducted the funeral service.

Lonsdale was one of the most widely respected figures in Vanuatu since Father Walter Lini, the country’s first Prime Minister.

Radio New Zealand quoted former long-time Vanuatu parliamentarian Sela Molisa as saying that the country had “lost one of its greatest leaders.”

Molisa says Lonsdale turned a largely ceremonial role into a pillar of stability during a political crisis in 2015.

When the president was overseas, the then-speaker of parliament, Marcellino Pipite, as acting president, pardoned himself and 12 other MPs of corruption convictions.

Lonsdale rescinded the pardons when he returned to the country, vowing to ‘clean the dirt’ from his backyard, before dissolving parliament and calling snap elections.

Dan McGarry, media director for the Vanuatu Daily Post group reporting on the Funeral said, “Vanuatu has never seen an outpouring of sorrow and admiration such as it witnessed yesterday…”

Following the service,Lonsdale’s casket was loaded onto the back of a flatbed truck festooned with flowers and the Vanuatu flag.

It led a kilometre-long procession of hundreds of vehicles through the main streets of Port Vila.

McGarry said it was difficult to accurately estimate the number of people who lined the roughly six-kilometre long route, “but there has been no similar public gathering in living memory”.


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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