The Papua New Guinea (PNG) community in Port Vila celebrated their 47th independence anniversary at the Independence Garden at Independence Park on Friday, September 16.
Celebrations started off with a march from the Moorings Hotel to the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Headquarters. Members of the PNG community marched alongside a few members of the PENAMA and TORBA communities.
PNG Honorary Consul to Vanuatu, Eileen Nganga, noted this year’s theme is “unity in diversity”. She recalled back in 1990 when Vanuatu celebrated its ten years independence anniversary.
Nganga says the Vanuatu government then requested for the PNG community to put on a cultural dance, on this note she acknowledged the late Judith Kere, originally from PNG’s Manus province but married to North Ambae.
Nganga said the late Mrs. Kere taught the Manus Dance to the children back then, which they performed at Independence Park. Late Mrs. Kere believed that it is important for children with PNG heritage to be proud of the many cultures they have and continue to perform the many dances the diverse country has.
Since then the community has grown and in 2019 the late Margaret Terry officially founded the Kumul Dance group with sponsorship from Capitol Insurance, also as a way of keeping the cultures alive.
This grew further as by last year more people in the community were stepping forward to teach cultural dances from the different parts of the country.
Mrs. Nganga thanked the TORBA community for their support since the Province adopted PNG through the MSG agreement; along with the PENAMA community for being part of the day’s event.
On behalf of the government of Vanuatu, Director of Foreign Affairs, Yvon Basil, wished the PNG community a happy 47th independence celebration.
Basil touched on the diplomatic ties that Vanuatu and PNG share, saying Vanuatu regards PNG as a ‘big brother.’
He acknowledges the fact that a lot of Ni-Vanuatu before independence and until the present, were educated at universities in PNG and have contributed and still contribute to the nation.
Basil also appreciates the PNG Defence Force, which helped fight against the Nagriamel rebels on Santo during Vanuatu’s push for independence.
In return, he mentioned the VMF returning the favor and taking part in the Bougainville crisis in the 90s to restore peace in the autonomous region.
Basil says the diplomatic ties are robust and amicable and he says the Vanuatu government really appreciates the good relations with PNG as a way in driving Vanuatu forward.
The Director said Vanuatu would like to renew the technical cooperation with PNG, which will be shifted to a global and regional context.
As MSG Chair, Basil said Vanuatu is happy to dialogue with PNG in regional and sub-regional issues while building a sub-regional organization that is development oriented and futuristic with the challenges ahead.
Basil further relayed condolences to PNG families who lost loved ones to COVID-19 and the recent 7.5 magnitude earthquake which shook the Eastern Highlands and Morobe Provinces. He assured them that the prayers of the people of Vanuatu are with them.
MSG Secretariat Director General (DG) Leonard Loma acknowledged the Vanuatu government, Port Vila City Council and customary landowners of Port Vila for allowing the PNG community to use the Independence Garden.
Loma reflected on the PNG Defence Force’s role in Vanuatu’s push for independence. He said all members of the PNG community have a duty to develop Vanuatu and continue to build relations between the two countries as the two countries’ governments are already doing so at their level.
DG Loma said there are traditional similarities between some parts of Vanuatu and some parts of PNG. He uses the bamboo band from Mota Lava as an example, pointing out that the PNG Provinces of Madang and Bouganville also have similar dances where they beat bamboo musical instruments and dance to it.
Loma who hails from PNG’s Milne Bay Province, recalled when PNG gained independence in 1975, he was attending Sogeri High School just outside Port Moresby and he says the pride he felt back then is still felt today.
PNG Community Chief Gomon Mesa thanked the sponsors of the event. Although he did not specifically mention names, the sponsors know who they are and that they are acknowledged.