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Pastor Sethy Regenvanu was always confident that Vanuatu would achieve independence from joint British and French rule.
As an early member of the New Hebrides National party - which later became the Vanua'aku Pati - Pastor Regenvanu says the platform of the party was for independence.
“We have always been independent people - before white people came to Vanuatu we were living in our islands independently and relying on our subsistent agriculture and our way of life, culture and customs,” Pastor Regenvanu explained.
After 74 years under joint British and French rule, Vanuatu won independence on 30 July, 1980.
Dorothy Regenvanu moved to Vanuatu from Australia in 1968 and having seen Australia's Indigenous people fight for land under colonial rule she also supported Vanuatu's fight for independence.
“I moved to Vanuatu as a missionary teacher and when I got here I saw the effects of colonialism on the indigenous people.”
“As a white person I didn't want to have any position of great authority but, as a teacher I contributed by encouraging and educating many of the leaders in Vanuatu,” Regenvanu said.
Like Vanuatu's first Prime Minister Father Walter Lini, Pastor Regenvanu was a churchman involved in Vanuatu politics and, says that the Church played an important role in Vanuatu gaining independence.
“Many of us who were involved in the struggle to get indepdence were products of the work of the church,” Pastor Regenvanu said.
Ralph Regenvanu, Pastor Regenvanu's son, is the current leader of the Opposition in Vanuatu and said his parents' fight for independence has been a huge influence on his political career.
“The Constitution, which my father helped draft, has been very useful in putting Vanuatu in a good direction — the challenge is how do we balance them in a modern nation state especially with modern challenges like climate change and now the COVID-19 pandemic,” Regenvanu said.
The 40th anniversary of independence has come during the pandemic which means some Ni-Vanuatus abroad are not able to return home for the celebrations.
However,Regenvanu says the country values them and encouraged them to stay safe and to enjoy the day the best they can.
“Know the country is here and we are looking forward to whenever they can come back,” he said.
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