Baldwin Lonsdale

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Baldwin Lonsdale
Baldwin Lonsdale 2015.jpg
President of Vanuatu
In office
22 September 2014 – 17 June 2017
Prime MinisterJoe Natuman
Sato Kilman
Charlot Salwai
Preceded byPhilip Boedoro (Acting)
Succeeded byEsmon Saimon (Acting)
Personal details
Baldwin Jacobson Lonsdale

(1948-08-05)5 August 1948
Mota Lava, Banks Islands, New Hebrides (now Vanuatu)
Died17 June 2017(2017-06-17) (aged 68)
Port Vila, Vanuatu
Political partyIndependent

Baldwin Jacobson Lonsdale (5 August 1948 – 17 June 2017)[1] was a Vanuatuan politician and Anglican priest who served as the president of Vanuatu from 22 September 2014 until his death in 2017.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Lonsdale was born on Mota Lava, in the Banks Islands, in 1948.[3] Before becoming president, Lonsdale was a civil servant who served as the secretary general of the province of Torba on the island of Mota Lava. He later became an Anglican priest.[4]

Lonsdale was occasionally referred to as Womtelo Reverend Baldwin Lonsdale.[5] The title of Womtelo (“Rising Sun” in Mwotlap) is the highest rank within the customary system of chiefly grades of his native island Mota Lava.[6]

2014 Presidential Election[edit]

Lonsdale was elected president in an indirect election by an electoral college consisting of members of parliament and provincial governors. The vote took eight rounds; the longest ballot in the country's history. In the last vote, Lonsdale received 46 votes of 58 possible satisfying the two-thirds majority requirement.[7] The speaker of Vanuatu's parliament, Philip Boedoro, served as interim president during the voting.[8]

Lonsdale was the second Anglican priest after John Bani to be elected president of Vanuatu.[4]


In his first speech as president, Lonsdale stressed the importance of the appointment for the province of Torba, promised to uphold the constitution, and asked the people of Vanuatu to stand united.[9]

Baldwin Lonsdale (second from left) at the 2015 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu

In March 2015, Lonsdale, who was attending the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, appealed for international assistance in the aftermath of Cyclone Pam.[10]

In October 2015, while President Lonsdale was abroad, the then Speaker of Parliament Marcellino Pipite used his position as Acting President to issue a 'presidential pardon' to himself and 13 other MPs who had just been convicted of bribery and were awaiting sentence. Returning to Vanuatu only hours after the pardon was issued, Lonsdale expressed his sorrow at what had happened and gave a widely welcomed speech declaring that nobody is above the law and that "I will clean the dirt from my backyard".[11] After consulting with legal experts and other leaders, Lonsdale revoked the pardon, citing the articles in the Vanuatu constitution which oblige leaders to avoid conflicts of interest and avoid bringing their integrity into question.[12][13] Lonsdale's decision was upheld by the Supreme Court of Vanuatu.[14]


Lonsdale died on 17 June 2017 in Port Vila of a heart attack at the age of 68.[15][16][17]

In his honour, the Arep Secondary School located on Sola, Vanuatu was renamed “Baldwin Lonsdale Memorial School” (abbreviated BLMS).[18]


  1. ^ "Index Lo-Ly". Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  2. ^ "Vanuatu loses its Head of State, President Baldwin Lonsdale". YTS Online News. Archived from the original on 19 June 2017. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  3. ^ "Vanuatu in mourning after president's sudden death". Radio New Zealand. 17 June 2017. Retrieved 18 June 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Vanuatu profile - Leaders". BBC. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  5. ^ "President of Vanuatu Baldwin Lonsdale dies aged 67". SBS. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  6. ^ The name Womtelo can be traced etymologically to an expression *wo mata i aloa (in the ancient Proto-Torres-Banks language), literally “eye of the sun”. See p.234-235 of François, Alexandre (2013), "Shadows of bygone lives: The histories of spiritual words in northern Vanuatu", in Mailhammer, Robert (ed.), Lexical and structural etymology: Beyond word histories, Studies in Language Change, 11, Berlin: DeGruyter Mouton, pp. 185–244, ISBN 978-1-61451-058-1.
  7. ^ "Baldwin Lonsdale sworn in as Vanuatu's new president -". Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  8. ^ "Vanuatu speaker becomes acting president". Radio New Zealand International. 3 September 2014. Retrieved 23 September 2014.
  9. ^ "Vanuatu elects new president". Radio New Zealand International. 23 September 2014. Retrieved 23 September 2014.
  10. ^ Elizabeth Chuck (March 15, 2015). "'Disaster' in Vanuatu After Cyclone Pam Tears Through Pacific Archipelago". NBC News. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
  11. ^ "Vanuatu president vows to 'stop crooked ways' after MPs pardoned". 12 October 2015.
  12. ^ Holmes, Oliver (16 October 2015). "Vanuatu president revokes pardons passed by maverick speaker".
  13. ^ "Vanuatu pardons revoked". 15 October 2015.
  14. ^ "Vanuatu judge says MPs' pardons invalid". 21 October 2015.
  15. ^ "Baldwin Lonsdale, President of Vanuatu, dies". Radio NZ. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  16. ^ "Vanuatu president Baldwin Lonsdale dies after heart attack". BBC. 17 June 2017. Retrieved 18 June 2017.
  17. ^ "Vanuatu President Baldwin- Lonsdale dies". Stuff (Fairfax Media). 17 June 2017.
  18. ^ Baldwin Lonsdale Memorial School News & Development (community page on Facebook).
Political offices
Preceded by President of Vanuatu
Succeeded by