Highlights of Reporting as Radio and Newspaper and Photojournalist in New Hebrides & Vanuatu
Veteran journalist Godwin Ligo recounts working as a media office.
I did political reporting and experienced British and French Resident Commissioners’ censorship.
I evaded them by duplicating voice interviews, gave edited versions to them to listen to but then broadcast full unedited version in full that made them furious with me.
My interview with Jimmy Stephens, at Salili in Port Vila while threatened to be shot on the chest by an expatriate but stopped by Jimmy Stephens- return to office on Mini Moke car, stopped by the British Intelligence who asked me to tell them where Jimmy Stephens was. I refused to tell them and was threatened to be thrown in jail No. 6 but still refused to inform them, then an aircraft flew overhead and I pointed to the aircraft flying Jimmy Stephens to Noumea, New Caledonia.
At the height of political tension in early 1979, myself and Bob Makin decided to conduct a radio interview with leaders of the two major political parties, the Vanua’aku (VP) and the Union of Moderate Parties (UMP). Questions were prepared, given to the leaders of the VP and UCNH/UMP, for the political parties to choose one leader each to answer the questions (Live on Radio New Hebrides).
I was chosen to chair a one-hour live interview on Radio New Hebrides. Both leaders were to give answers to each question for 3 minutes each.
Announcement was made about the Live Political Interview two days prior to Live Broadcast. On the eve of the Live Interview, the Radio New Hebrides Studio at Malapoa College UNESCO building was surrounded by vehicles of political supporters who listened from their cars wanting to know which of the two political leaders will emerge a winner, but how i presented same questions and controlled the Live Interview panel, and summed up at the end, left none of them a winner, but the conclusion was left to the listener to decide for themselves. This was just before the general elections. The Impact was that an agreement was reached for the Government of National Unity, Peaceful General Elections, and the 1980 Independence!!
Reporting Coverage of the VP march for independence in Lugaville Santo- I was beaten and threated, but I return alive to Port Vila, wrote an article in the New Hebrides News title “BLOOD AMONGST THONGS”, which became a powerful political article that interested Britain and France and other countries in the Pacific and beyond.
I Covered the Joint British-French Resident Commissioners visit to Matantas in Big Bay, Santo. During his speech to the chiefs and People of Matantas, the British High Commissioner John Champion, asked me to provide translation from English to Bislama for him.
I did, and in the end, the British High Commissioner remarked, “I am so glad that the British Information has employed you, and trained you as an English Journalist and today you proved your capability before this people and I am proud of you and the British Information Services”.
I covered practically all Presbyterian General Assemblies and reported on the Resolutions pertaining to the support for the Independence for the New Hebrides, which the Presbyterian Church of the New Hebrides was very pleased with but, with constant opposition by the British and French Resident Commissioners.
I Interviewed one political leader after his overseas visit, had the interview played over Radio New Hebrides, 3 hours later, his political party threw him out for things he mentioned in the interview and had another leader from the party appointed on the same day.
I was based in Lakatoro as Reporter for the British Information Services for one year.
I toured Malekula, Paama, Ambrym and Pentecost sending news information of developments, and problems and whatever back to Port Vila for news transmissions.
I had an encounter with a French Planter on Malekula when reporting on dying cattle on his plantations caused by lack of water and green grass during a bad long dry season in the New Hebrides.
He was really annoyed and threatened to come find me and have returned to Port Vila one way or another. The British District Agent at Lakatoro Darvell Wilkins, sorted the issue and I remained for one year at Lakatoro.
As an English Speaking journalist, I was one of the few who was allowed by the UCNH/UMP Political Party to enter the Party Political Office under the Vallette Garage to Interview UCNH and UMP Political Leaders.
I was one of the very few Journalists who was granted to enter Fanafo and interview and report on political activities of the Nagriamel Political Movements in Fanafo, and likewise with Tabwemasana, Vemarana, and others.
One incident I was chased out of Fanafo, because of two Foreign Journalists who were with me and I had to drive the Peugeot 504 like Mad Max though the jungle road from Fanafo back to Luganville, Santo. We were ok, but they scared the daylight out of us. I returned there after and was ok.
I covered practically all VP, UCNH/ UMP/MANH PARTY, NATATOK, NAGRIAMEL, FREN MELANESIAN, and all other political party rallies, conferences, meetings, and even foreign officials’ visits from Britain and France, Representatives Assemblies.
QUEEN’S VISIT: I was privileged to cover Her Majesty Queen of England’s Royal visit to Mele Village, Ifira, South Pentecost and Luganville, Santo. In Luganville, I was driving in the 3rd Vehicle after Her Majesty’s Vehicle, when just before the Sarakata River Bridge, Her Majesty’s vehicle received a punctured tyre. I was asked kindly to move to another vehicle, and the vehicle I was driving, transported Her Majesty the Queen for a short distance from there to Sarakata English Primary School.
Her official vehicle was fixed and I went back to the vehicle that her Majesty actually was driven in as support vehicle. We exchanged seats with the Queen- a lifetime experience for me as a Journalist.
British Senior Police officers and Protocol trusted me as a British Information Office Journalist.
My visit to the Small Nambas Tribe and encounter with Chief Mweleun, as a Journalist was a lifetime experience. I took two Ashahi Pentax Cameras, plus several Kodak Color and Black and White Ilford Films, a radio transceiver, a watch, cooking knife, few clothes, plates, cups, spoons and few other items- went to South West Bay, Malekula for a Christmas holiday and decided to make a trip to Londonbwei to visit Tribal Chief Mweleun, who was a cannibal but turned away from this seven years prior to my visit to his home village in the middle of the mountains in South West Malekula.
I spent two nights with him in his sacred Nakamal, spent hours into the night and into the morning recording the history of his life, his aspirations for his people and his past and his present and what he wanted as his future and the future of his people.
He never saw a radio receiver before, never heard a voice on a radio receiver and questions how a man can shrink then place himself in a small box and talk out in a loud voice to the world? I did my best to explain this and the best I could think of as a best explanation to tell Chief Mweleun was that the voice was from a Magic Man who died before and entered the box to advice the world of what was to come or happen in the future. He was happy and contained with my answer but was afraid to touch the radio box nor go close to it. He said I was a very special man bringing this to him and his people. I did this, because I was a Journalist or I would have never ventured into this world and seen how this Chief lived like hundred years back.
I Covered and reported on numerous political rallies in Port Vila, by almost all political parties and groupings and interviewed practically all political parties’ leaders and personalities, some gone now and some still here today.
I Interviewed Chiefs Leaders, Women Leaders and others over 1970s and 1980s and even throughout the last 40 years of Vanuatu’s Independence and have covered political elections at all levels, and as well as in the modern Vanuatu.
I covered the First Ever Agriculture Show on Tanna, and in Port Vila and numerous events, produced numerous programs, wrote numerous news articles for the Daily Post.
THE STORY THAT MADE ME CRY
In 2004, I was to cover the Independence celebrations at Independence Park. I did not have a car (still have no car today) so I walked. I came across a little girl of about 8 years old and her little brother of about 5 sitting on the side of the road, with a dish filled with ‘Kato 8’. The little girl had a dress on but her little brother only had a pant but no shirt. I asked them if they were selling the Kato 8 and they nodded “Yes”. I queried if they were also going to the Independence Celebrations, but the little girl looked up to me and said, “Mum said we cannot go, we don’t have enough money to go, and Kato 8 money is for our rice and meat for lunch”.
I stooped down, bought every Kato 8 in the dish and gave what else I had and told them they can go home. They left and I also left. Tears rolled down my face and I asked myself a question: “Is this independence I amongst thousands of others fought for?” If I had a camera and took their picture have it published in the local paper, Vanuatu would have looked like Africa!
As a journalist, I will continue to report on injustices and for economic and social justices until it is fully established on every single soil of the new Republic of Vanuatu.
The Gap: I did not report on the actual Independence Celebrations of the New Hebrides and the re-birth of the new Republic of Vanuatu because I was appointed among others, directed and coordinated the Independence Celebrations of the New Hebrides and the re-birth of the New Republic of Vanuatu.
I wish every young Ni-Vanuatu Journalists and those to come in Vanuatu Media Platform, “Stand Up for Truth until the Sun Sets on You”!
“Journalism is not a hobby, it is the 4th Pillar of a Nation”. St. Paul and the Bible Writers were Journalists themselves, that’s why we have the Word of God with us today, and so Moses, King David and King Solomon were all writers.
I owe much too, to many of my past colleagues in the media industry in Vanuatu; namely Joe Bomal Carlo, Jonas Cullwick, Alick Noel, Paul Gardissat, Bob Makin, Agnes Kalkaua, Caroline Escale, Ambong Thompson, Mackenzie Tuleo, Jean Baptist Rangmwel, Kaltau Ayong, Fidel Vanusoksok, Francois Aisav, many I cannot mention all their names.
In 1986, I applied for a private FM Commercial license, but was refused. In 2006 I reapplied and was granted the license for a private commercial FM radio and was granted the license by the then Prime Minister Ham Lini Vanuroroa. With close friends we started the First Ever Private Commercial FM radio in Vanuatu and I named it CAPITOL FM 107, though I let it go into other hands, I developed with my sons, and partners in business, the new program format and music philosophy. It was a challenged to the existing radio stations.
I today work as a journalist with the Daily News Paper and wish to register my appreciation to the company for allowing me to work for Daily Post since around 2009.
On the occasion of the 40th anniversary celebration of Vanuatu’s independence, I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate all journalists in all local media outlets in Vanuatu…namely the Daily Post, the VBTC- radio and television, Capital FM 107, Buzz FM 96 and other radio stations in the country.