31 Jul 2015

State funeral for former Vanuatu PM

3:07 pm on 31 July 2015
Edward Natapei's body lying in state

Edward Natapei's body lying in state Photo: Vanuatu Daily Post

A state funeral is being held today in Port Vila for Vanautu's former prime minister, Edward Natapei, who died earlier this week.

The body of Edward Natapei has been lying in state at Vanuatu's Parliament, draped in traditional mats and the national colours of Vanuatu red, green, yellow and black.

Mourners have been queuing up at Parliament House today to pay their respects.

Former Vanuatu Prime Minister Edward Natapei

Former Vanuatu Prime Minister Edward Natapei Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

After the state funeral Mr Natapei's body will flown south to his home island of Futuna in the country's Tafea province for burial.

Mr Natapei, who was 61, had been prime minister for three years from 2001 and then for most of the years from 2008 to 2010.

He was the long-time leader of Vanuatu's oldest and biggest political party, the Vanua'aku Pati, which played a central role in ushering the country to independence.

Meanwhile, the prime minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O'Neill, has paid tribute to the late Vanuatu leader, saying his loss is not only felt in Vanuatu but in the Pacific region and the wider international community.

Mr O'Neill described Edward Natapei as an outstanding statesman, a good friend to PNG and a strong proponent of Melanesian solidarity and cooperation, who has been admired and respected both regionally and globally.

The PNG prime minister said Edward Natapei served with integrity and distinction and that his leadership legacy in the Pacific will live on.