Statement by H.E. Mr. Peter Thomson, President of the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly, at General Assembly plenary meeting to pay tribute to the memory of H.E. Womtelo Reverend Baldwin Lonsdale of Vanuatu
22 June 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This morning, we pay tribute to His Excellency President Womtelo Reverend Baldwin Lonsdale of the Republic of Vanuatu, who passed away suddenly on 17 June 2017.
President Lonsdale was greatly admired by his people and indeed across the Pacific for his just leadership, his humility, dedication to country, and his pride in the Vanuatu people.
He was a man of faith, an Anglican priest, and a driving force for national unity.
He was a champion for the role of women in Vanuatu’s democracy, and a strong supporter for youth engagement in developing the nation.
The defining moment for a national leader is often how they respond in the face of national tragedy, disaster and upheaval. When the destructive force of Category 5 Cyclone Pam devastated Vanuatu in March 2015, it was President Lonsdale who became the global face for the tragedy.
Speaking at the 3rd United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, President Lonsdale pleaded for international humanitarian assistance for his country. He urged the world to recognise how such disasters can ‘wipe-out years of development and reduce people to a state of increased poverty’ overnight, and he called upon world leaders to ‘assist by creating a sustainable development path’.
President Lonsdale led by example in his commitment to ethical, responsible, and proactive leadership.
Indeed, upon his election in September 2014, President Lonsdale said – and I quote – “my first and foremost priority is to make sure that the Constitution of the nation is upheld at all times, and that peace, unity, justice and harmony prevail at all times”.
His firm dedication to these high principles was demonstrated in late 2015, when he took quick and decisive action to uphold peace, democracy, and rule of law in Vanuatu.
The late President carried out his presidential duties with dignity and respect, emerging as a much loved symbol of unity for his nation. He will be sorely missed.
On behalf of the General Assembly I extend our most sincere condolences to the family of President Lonsdale, and to the Government and people of the Republic of Vanuatu.
I now request the General Assembly to rise to observe a minute of silence in memory of the late President.