Vanuatu Constitution Day is a public holiday celebrated on October 5 in the Pacific Island Republic of Vanuatu. It commemorates the signing of the country’s constitution in 1979. The signing of the constitution would pave the way for Vanuatu’s independence from France and the United Kingdom on July 30, 1980. It is a day that marks a pivotal point toward the country’s sovereignty after years of struggle, showcasing the unity of Vanuatu’s leaders in pursuing a common goal.
History of Vanuatu Constitution Day
Vanuatu is a volcanic archipelago of 83 islands located in the South Pacific Ocean. It has mainly stood as a place dominated by local chieftains and tribes before the arrival of Europeans around the 16th century.
In the 19th century, France and the United Kingdom attempted to take control of the island chain, then known as the New Hebrides. In 1906, both countries agreed to share control of the islands through a unique Anglo-French Condominium that grants both countries colonial power. During this period, Vanuatu was primarily used as a plantation hub, but its condominium government proved to be highly ineffective due to persistently conflicting interests from both powers.
Vanuatu’s independence movement gained momentum in the 1960s following bungled efforts by both colonizing powers to economically develop the country. One particular point of contention was the fact that plantations were increasingly taking traditionally owned lands from the natives. The calls for independence began to grow louder after the arrest and release of Jimmy Stevens and Chief Paul Tari Buluk, prominent Vanuatuan leaders detained for opposing these land encroachments.
Influential priest Walter Lini formed the New Hebrides National Party in 1971, which would be a prominent force in the calls for independence. The party eventually gained ground and, by 1977, was calling for immediate independence under a clear, anglicized central government run by locals. Thus, a formal constitution was written by a committee composed of representatives of political parties, religious leaders, and tribal chiefs. It was signed in 1979 and came into force in 1980 when the New Hebrides finally gained independence as Vanuatu.
Constitution Day is celebrated and observed in the country by leaders delivering speeches, holding special public ceremonies, and special events taking place all over the archipelago. It is a day celebrating the document that signified the moment the country finally stood on its own.
Vanuatu Constitution Day timeline
France and the United Kingdom agree to share control of Vanuatu, the then-named New Hebrides, under a joint government.
The Vanuatu archipelago is used as an American strategic base from the start of WWII until 1945.
The New Hebrides National Party (now the Vanua'aku Pati) is formed, playing a crucial role in seeking independence.
The Constitution of Vanuatu is signed, paving the way for independence.
Vanuatu declares independence from the joint Anglo-French rule.
Vanuatu Constitution Day FAQs
Is cannibalism still practiced in Vanuatu?
While Vanuatu’s tribes have a history of cannibalism, top anthropologists agree that it is no longer practiced in the nation. The last recorded practice was in 1969. However, its cooking methods (not necessarily involving human flesh) are still passed down through the generations.
What is the official religion of Vanuatu?
Up to 82% of its population are Christian, with around 28% being Presbyterian, 12% Catholic, 15% Anglican, and 12% Seventh-Day Adventist. The prevalence of Christianity in Vanuatu is due to the consistent presence of missionaries on the islands throughout its history.
When is the best time to visit Vanuatu?
The Vanuatu Tourism Board says that the best time to visit the country is between April and October when the weather is warm and the sun is abundant. Vanuatu’s rainy season falls between these months, so unless you like the rain, it’s recommended to visit the country when it’s nice and sunny.
How to Observe Vanuatu Constitution Day
View the celebrations yourself
Constitution Day is marked by many ceremonial and government events throughout the Vanuatuan archipelago. For those in Vanuatu, partake in the parades, speeches, and public gatherings to soak in the lively atmosphere and celebrate Vanuatu's status as a proud nation.
Fly the flag
As a show of your love for your country, fly the Vanuatuan flag above your head proudly. The day commemorates the document that ensured Vanuatu's status as an independent nation and the moment the Vanuatuan people officially gained their national identity.
Read the constitution and know your rights!
Why not take some time to read the constitution itself? After all, it is the document that guarantees your basic rights. You always need to know your rights as a citizen to prevent anyone from attempting to violate them.
5 Interesting Facts About Vanuatu
The spirit lives on in Buckingham
There is a tribe on the Vanuatuan island of Tanna that worships Prince Philip, the U.K. sovereign, believing him to be a descendant of a spiritual ancestor.
Its name symbolizes its spirit
The name ‘Vanuatu’ comes from the Melanesian words ‘vanua’ (land) and ‘tu’ (to remain in/on).
It has a long and rich history
Vanuatu has been inhabited since 1300 B.C., with the Lapita being the first to arrive at the archipelago.
The origins of a popular sport
Bungee jumping was invented by a Vanuatuan tribe on the island of Pentecost.
Vanuatu has no army
Like 21 other countries, Vanuatu does not have a standing army.
Why Vanuatu Constitution Day is Important
The constitution emphasizes Vanuatu's wholesome values
A line in the Vanuatuan Constitution states that it is committed to traditional Melanesian values, along with faith in God and Christian values. Melanesian values include the importance of community, self-reliance, and unity in diversity. A country run under values that emphasize the importance of togetherness is a country that is truly united.
A constitution ensures the rights of everyone
In general, a constitution explains the values that unite the nation and outlines the rights that the people deserve. Adherence to the constitution is critical to ensuring national and social stability, and every citizen should be fully aware of it. Without it, who knows where a country will end up.
It provides information for foreigners interested in learning more
It's always interesting to learn new things. For foreigners, Vanuatu's Constitution Day is an opportunity to learn about the country's history. Vanuatu is a lovely country with friendly people, a vibrant culture, and breathtaking scenery. What is there not to like?
Vanuatu Constitution Day dates