This year has been an eventful one for Vanuatu. In the coming week, we’ll be running stories that commemorate what will surely prove to be one of the most challenging episodes in this young nation’s history.

But first, a word of hope.

Vanuatu has been split apart. We have experienced hardship, misery and sorrow. We have lost loved ones and leaders. Our livelihoods have suffered, and will continue to do so for a little while yet. We have experienced tensions and tribulations the likes of which have seldom been seen in any democracy.

A weaker nation would have fallen. It is clear now that Marcellino Pipite’s dire predictions concerning the fate of the nation were completely unfounded. In the face of an apparently insurmountable political impasse, the people of this country have managed to stay the course, to cleave tightly and faithfully to the principles of justice and fairness and equality before the law.

Greater nations have failed where we succeeded.

But it needs to be said that wiser leaders would never have let things go this far. There is a reason people in public office step down when under the cloud of suspicion. It’s not because they’re guilty; often enough, they’re cleared of any wrongdoing. It’s because they recognise the necessity of allowing the office to continue functioning.

President Lonsdale is right in one thing. The political instability that has plagued Vanuatu for decades is truly a ‘man-made disaster’. It springs from a very basic tendency to ask, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ And to judge everyone from that perspective.

Just a couple of days ago, a young woman was overheard saying that one veteran politician was sure to be removed because he’d never done much for his constituency. The fact that he’d enacted policies that have benefited the nation, the fact that he has been one of its most able administrators, even the fact that he is admired by his peers… none of this was enough. He hadn’t brought the cargo home, so he would have to go.

MP Robert Bohn testified before the Supreme Court that the pressure was intense for MPs to provide direct assistance to their constituents and, more to the point, to their supporters. He cited this as one of the motivating factors behind the illegal loan scheme that landed half the government in jail.

It’s saddening, really, that voters and MPs alike still fail to understand that politicians don’t deliver development; policies do.

When we focus on the ground before our feet, when we fill our own plate without sharing a morsel with our neighbour, we don’t just diminish ourselves; we diminish the nation.

This has to change. It’s time we—all of us—gave a gift to this land of ours. That’s the gift of unity.

Nobody’s suggesting we all hold hands and sing John Lennon songs until everything magically becomes all right. That would be stupid and naïve.

What we really need has to come from Santa.

And when we say Santa, of course we mean [WARNING—parents should not let their still-believing children read past this point. ed.] ourselves. Just as we take it on ourselves to fulfill the role of selfless gift-giver to our children, we need to do the same for our nation.

We give gifts in recognition of achievement, in recognition of desires and dreams. And once in a while, we should permit ourselves a dream or two for this country. Because if we don’t have some sort of individual vision of what this country is supposed to be, how can we take the measure of a candidate, of a leader?

If we don’t know what our country aspires to be, how can we possibly know if it’s going in the right direction?

If we don’t scrimp and save and sweat and suffer to provide for this country, why should anyone else? If we’re overrun by grinches with their two-sizes-too-small hearts, who do we have to blame but ourselves?

So let’s write that letter to Santa, to ourselves.

Merry Christmas, Vanuatu. We hope you find out what you want. And we hope you get it.

Dan McGarry

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