30 Jul 2015

Vanuatu marks independence anniversary

8:24 am on 30 July 2015

Celebrations will be held in Vanuatu today to mark the 35th anniversary of the country's independence.

The country gained independence from the joint-colonial rule of Britain and France in 1980 after a decades-long independence struggle.

But casting a shadow over today's celebrations is the death this week of one of the country's political stalwarts, opposition leader and former prime minister Edward Natapei.

Mr Natapei was the long-time leader of the country's oldest political party, the Vanua'aku Pati, which was closely involved in ushering the country to independence.

Kastom festivities, flag raising and a speech by prime minister Sato Kilman are to feature in anniversary celebrations at Independence Park in Port Vila.

A state funeral will be held for Edward Natapei on Friday.

Vanuatu politician Edward Natapei

Vanuatu politician Edward Natapei Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades