I've been prompted to write this article by the many keen New Zealand
DXers who have recently written to me. It was indeed a pleasure to confirm the correct
reception reports on Radio Vemerama broadcasts that were forwarded. In their letters,
listeners asked questions ranging in curiosity about my 'rebellious activities' to how I
became involved in the Vemerama secession movement and about the actual station set-up to
To satisfactorily respond to each listener's letter was unfortunately
impossible, and hence, this article which was kindly suggested by New Zealand DXer Ray
Crawford. To him, and to all the others who offered the station encouragement - many
thanks and I trust the following will satisfy the varied and probing questions.
Radio Vemerama was a political timebomb, destined inevitably, to self
destruction. A history of the station can't avoid a political discussion, but I'll
endeavor to avoid a heavy propaganda slant. Before understanding how the radio station
came into being, it's essential to know the background history of the New Hebrides and of
So few foreigners can accurately, let alone approximately, position
these islands on a world map. It was only after arriving on my first visit to the group
that I actually discovered where I was.
The New Hebrides group consists of some 80 islands. Under a magnifying
glass, a reliable atlas displays these islands as a scattering of dots which appears Y
shaped, and positions this upheaval of land masses along the mid-SW Pacific belt of
converging continental plates, lying within the triangle formed by connecting New
Caledonia, Fiji and the Solomons.
The islands are beautiful, but cruel. Their beauty is so often
countered by the harsher realities of life, such as tropical diseases, unbearable humidity
and a lack of fresh water, not normally associated with the concept of a pacific paradise.
To the visitor, or the expatriate, the unpleasantness is an
inconvenience, but to the New Hebrideans, it's a way of life. It's not only the living
conditions that are so different - the native lifestyle contrasts so markedly with our
Each island, indeed each region, has its own distinct custom, and,
given the short nautical distance between the islands, there is to some degree an
overlapping of these customs. However, any attempt to graphically represent the varying
custom regions is virtually impossible.
Some islands can be noted for their distinction, their richness -
others for their lack of it. Attempting to categorize the New Hebridean would be a
frustrating and futile exercise. Each New Hebridean would claim to differ from his native
brothers living either beyond the coral studded hills above or across a short expanse of
the Pacific Ocean on a nearby island.
However, they do have one thing in common - a central government. At
the moment, they have the 'government of unity' of Prime Minister Father Walter Lini.
Before independence on July 30, 1980 (and until the November 1979 elections), the natives
were part of a condominium - governed by a joint administration of British and French
This joint rule came into being after the protocol agreements of August
6 1904. Prior to this agreement, 100 pacific islands were administered undefined, merely
coral uprisings to be avoided by the passing ships. Each islander lived his own complex
life under the direction of his recognized custom chief.
Now, these people and islands were thrust together, to be governed by
the white man and his alien 'custom'. As can be readily appreciated, the white man's rule
could only succeed by breaking the backbone of native custom. The 'Westminster' style of
government of Father Walter Lini has as much chance of succeeding as did the condominium
What led to the secession movement? What prompted the 'rebels' to break
away from a 'democratically elected' government, and why weren't there such activities
during colonial rule?
Firstly, it must be understood that the condominium was a classic
tropical bungle of mountainous magnitude. Throughout the 74 years of joint rule, the
British and French governments did practically nothing to develop the region. There were
continued colonial conflicts and rarely any major common agreements. It was, in fact, the
final battle ground between the British and French.
If one said YES, then out of principle, the other said NO.
Consequently, there were few joint signatures agreeing to new laws or to proposed
developmental projects. Massive bureaucracies were duplicated all for the sole purpose of
colonial pride. It would not have surprised me were there two road systems, one for the
British, one for the French. These, of course, would have led to the respective hospitals,
schools, and police stations.
To the westerner, living in the New Hebrides was the absolute tropical
paradise. You did what you liked, provided that you stayed within the law. If, for some
particular reason, you didn't see eye to eye with the law, then there existed the
alternative, depending upon your nationality, of being able to switch to the legal code of
the other colonial master.
The westerner enjoyed such privileges, but the New Hebridean had no
such advantage. He was governed solely by colonial joint rulings. It was his life, his
custom, to be ruled by the custom chief, hence the beginning of conflict with the white
men. The New Hebridean was expected to adhere to the rule whilst the British and French
had their own laws imported from native lands.
Arrival on Espiritu Santo
Such was the New Hebrides I found upon my arrival in December 1978. It
may seem a very short expanse of time up to May 28 1980, when the 'bow and arrow war'
began, for me to have become involved. I don't wish to excuse my involvement, but I'd been
there on two earlier occasions in the 1970s. In 1978, I arrived as a surveyor, having been
selected for a position with a private land surveying company. Living on the island of
Espiritu Santo was, despite the coral beaches, an existence in a tropical paradise.
As a surveyor, I traveled extensively amongst the islands. This gave me
a rare opportunity to meet the different islanders and to observe the differing
lifestyles. A considerable portion of my leisure time was spent on my haunches drinking
kava with the custom chiefs and tribal elders, and discussing their custom and way of
life. To satisfy their probing curiosity, I offered glimpses of life in Australia, my
They were a happy, but frustrated people. The natives wanted a return
to their true custom, a return to their traditional life. If this were to be secured by an
elected government, then so much the better. However, perhaps surprisingly, the people
didn't want independence.
The deep rooted suspicion and distrust of 'brothers' from other islands
governing their lives and island lingered on from the tribal wars of past. It wasn't part
of their custom for their chief to be ignored and dictated to by other islanders. It
should be noted that it wasn't only the 'primitive' natives, but also the 'educated' ones
who didn't welcome independence. A government minister extending his control over other
islands wouldn't be tolerated.
Hence, the massive demonstrations on Espiritu Santo, particularly in
1979 and early 1980, against the moves towards independence. These were organized by Molli
(Chief) Jimmy Stevens, a half-caste, but most importantly, the recognized chief of custom
chiefs on the island. He is a brilliant, but humble man with charisma that caused the sun
to hide behind the clouds when he spoke.
And, for the people he did speak - he spoke courageously. The people
claimed that they hadn't been prepared sufficiently for independence - and they most
certainly hadn't. They demanded a delay. If independence were to come, then the natives
felt it only reasonable that they be nurtured to a reasonable degree of maturity by the
responsible colonial powers.
Rumblings of Rebellion
All of these claims seem very reasonable, but do they justify what
happened on and continued after May 28 1980? The issue that kindled the fire began with
the November 1979 elections. Within days, claims were made of fraudulent elections,
perpetrated by officials of one of the colonial powers.
Evidence was produced showing cases of people voting more than once, of
children of 14 and 16 years voting (where the minimum age was 18) and of certain colored
voting cards not being available in particular regions. In the above case of the 14 and 16
year olds, they were the children of a Vanuatu government minister from Santo. All such
evidence was carefully accumulated and then presented to the government, through the
court, within the legally required period.
For weeks, and then months, there was no government response. Finally
Molli Jimmy Stevens approached Father Walter Lini about the matter, and he replied that it
was out of hands, claiming that the files had been handed over to the colonial powers who
had transferred them to London and Paris for consideration.
With the proposed independence only months away, Jimmy Stevens flew to
Europe, only to discover that Walter Lini's claims were blatant lies. No files detailing
the electoral fraud had ever been presented to the colonial masters. Infuriated by the
treachery, he returned to Santo whilst his representatives flew for talks at the United
Nations. The people of Santo had been betrayed by a man from another island. Fresh
elections were called for and were refused. Negotiations on the question of autonomy
(under a central government) were demanded and initiated, but delayed by government
The simple, peace loving melanesians on Santo had suffered enough
abuse. Their custom way of attempting to negotiate to avoid conflicts had failed. On the
evening of May 28, natives armed with bows and arrows and nulla-nullas surrounded and
'peacefully' captured the British police station.
There was never any intention to injure the police, merely to frighten
them into running away and leaving the island. The custom men stormed the building and
took captive the police who were virtually unarmed. After this brief exercise, the natives
reboarded their buses and headed east to the ''British Paddock', housing the native
After surrounding the houses, they were detected by resident police who
fired gas grenades blindly into the shadows. With weeping eyes, the men pounced upon the
houses and smashed the buildings until the occupants ran off into the night. Had the
grenades not been fired, the buildings wouldn't have been damaged. As it was, the damage
was only superficial - a few broken windows. The natives had only one intention - to
frighten the government employees intto leaving the island.
This was the beginning of and the end to the 'bow and arrow war'.
Telling of the events between now and the arrival of the Papua New Guinean troops would
take pages - pages of the tragic comic opera that ensued. Whilst we were weeping, the
world was laughing.
The war, that had no fighting and saw no casualties, had begun. Father
Walter Lini had been expecting and dreading this course of events, but he was totally
unprepared. The British colonial power had also been expectant and had acted with
foresight. Months earlier, it had removed all police officers and colonial administrators
including officials who had been implicated in the electoral fraud.
In response to the coup, Walter Lini imposed a total blockade upon
Santo. This tiny island was totally cut off - completely isolated from the outside world.
The world heard on Radio Vanuatu, the anglican priest, Father Walter Lini, urging all
Australians, New Zealanders, British subjects and native government supporters to leave
their homes, properties and possessions and depart the island.
At first, there was no response. Without refugees, the Prime Minister
couldn't attain world wide media attention. He continued his daily broadcasts, assuring
the people of Santo that their lives were in danger. Finally, panic did set in., with
scenes like a British doctor shooting his dog and then rushing with his family to an
evacuation point. The native government supporters panicked and abandoned everything,
opting for refugee status.
Had some whites not left the island, I doubt that Walter Lini would've
received any refugees. While all of this chaos was left to be tidied up by the evacuation
boats, Molli Jimmy Edwards, on Radio Tanafo, assured the people on Santo of their safety.
He said that no-one, irrespective of his political belief, would be hurt - those who
wished to leave would be permitted to do so without hindrance - and those who wanted to
stay and to live in peace as before would be most welcome.
Many did stay on and weren't harmed, but many natives followed the dog
shooting doctor to Port Vila. There they became refugees and were eligible for Red Cross
blankets. At last, Walter Lini had his refugees. From all over the world, journalists and
photographers descended on Santo. However, they found no war, no blood - only the sleepy
little town of Luganville. They wondered why on earth they'd been sent. Disappointed, they
returned to Vila to join the cocktail circuit and to attend John Beasant's '4 o'clock
Radio Vemerama Is Born
Without reliable media coverage, the voice of the people couldn't be
heard. Their desperate pleas for help, justice and new, properly supervised elections
couldn't be heard. Accordingly, in early June, Radio Vemerama was born and broke into the
airwaves on 3522 kHz. For a couple of weeks, there was only the French and Bichelamar (ie:
Pidgin English) language sessions between 6-8pm Local Vemerama Time (0700-0900 GMT).
However, for maximum coverage (especially in the Pacific region), an
English language program was absolutely necessary. I volunteered to be an announcer, and a
few days later, in a typical New Hebridean fashion, I was given 10 minutes warning that I
was to be on air that evening. That first night was a mere 15 minutes news bulletin
followed by a weather report and the local shipping movements.
Driving to my first broadcast, I adopted the radio alias 'Derek
Hodding'. Five minutes before going on air for the first time, I was aware that
intelligence agents in Vila knew my true identity. But, if they were to play a game, why
shouldn't I? And so, Derek Hodding came into existence on 3522 kHz.
To provide light humor, it was a charade that I maintained throughout.
Affectionate messages were broadcast to my mother (Mrs Hodding) who traveled extensively
around the world.As she visited different countries, I read her letters and told the
listeners about those countries, and even played music from those regions.
My only 'active duty' throughout the rebellion was holding a microphone
and broadcasting in the 8pm onwards time slot. At first I thought that a few hours every
night would be a breeze - but those two months of radio experience was the most exhausting
period in my life. I was everything from English language station manager, programer, boy
Friday, announcer to radio technician. Despite my exhaustive labors and diversity, it
would be unforgivable if I didn't mention my beautiful assistant, Samander.
She worked just as hard, and her services will always be remembered.
Her rich and mellow voice brought comfort not only to the 'rebels', but also to the
visiting commandos. Such was the dedication of the lads that posters of this beautiful
woman adorned the walls of the British Marine Command HQ. Together, we ate aeroplane
jelly, sipped whisky, made commercials, wrote and read the news, dedicated songs and tried
to keep the world informed of the situation on Santo.
The world was listening. But, were foreign journalists tuning into 3522
kHz with pen in hand each evening. No! In the capital of Port Vila, they were content to
sip highballs, travel the cocktail circuit and rely on press releases from John Beasant
(Walter Lini's press spokesman, advisor and government policy man). Those who relied upon
him and attended his '4 o'clock follies' were deceived. His official press releases were
more often than not totally fabricated.
To the north, on Espiritu Santo, I was shocked by the blatant lies
broadcast by Radio Australia. One heated evening on air, I called that station a
propaganda radio station. I was unaware of from where the Radio Australia correspondent
was obtaining his grossly distorted stories. I wasn't to learn this until much later when
I was in jail. There, John Beasant boasted that he'd fabricated certain reports to further
his and the government's cause. In his words, "rebels that weren't rebels had to
Being an Australian, I wasn't ashamed of labeling Radio Australia a
propaganda station. I didn't consider myself a traitor to any country. Whilst false claims
were made by responsible agencies, I countered their claims. I demanded that they firstly
check their facts (as I did), before broadcasting them. Regrettably, I did give a couple
of fabricated news items that I later apologized for and corrected. As a newsman, I had my
sources, and those who gave the fabricated reports were never again relied upon.
Radio Vanuatu (strictly controlled by Walter Lini's government) was and
still is a pure propaganda station. For weeks, it didn't acknowledge that Radio Vemerama
existed. Despite the fact that most of the New Hebrideans were twisting the dial onto our
frequency. Radio Vanuatu pretended that Radio Vemerama couldn't be heard - until I
broadcast a sensational news item that forced the government station to attempt to squash
The news item that caused all the fuss was that foreign and
unidentified submarines had been sighted cruising off Santo and nearby islands. From very
reliable sources, I learnt that they were neither British nor French vessels. Further, I
was horrified to learn that such sightings had regularly been reported over the past few
years, and, that in the early months of 1980, the number of sightings had been alarmingly
The British and French governments were aware of such activity in their
waters, but were powerless to intervene. Whose submarines were they, and what were their
cargoes? One can only guess, but intelligence rumors had it that Walter Lini would gladly
accept Cuban assistance if western powers (particularly Britain and France) weren't
prepared to back him.
The day following my sensational news bulletin, I nearly choked over my
midday meal. Radio Vanuatu gave a most incredible news item. It reported that PM Walter
Lini had just returned from a flight aboard a British transport C130 Hercules in a search
for submarines. The sounds of laughter echoed through the streets of Luganville.
We imagined the PM taking his tea on the flight deck of a Hercules, and
occasionally raising his binoculars to find those nasty submarines. The report continued,
claiming that the plane was fitted out with a maze of electronic equipment, and that no
submarine vessels had been found. The PM had been alarmed by the 'f'alse' sightings
broadcast by Radio Vemerama, and had personally conducted the hunt. Unexpectantly, Radio
Vanuatu also announced that the Vila parliament had erupted in outrage at that day's
sitting being cancelled so as to allow the PM to go fishing.
After a couple of days of research, it was discovered that the plane
upon which Walter Lini flew, didn't have the capacity to detect submerged submarines. On
air, I accused the PM of lying, of deceiving the people and challenged him to prove that
his submarine hunting C130 actually had the necessary electronic equipment aboard. This
challenge was maintained (accompanied by the track Yellow Submarine) until the PM's
credibility had been further eroded.
Beautiful Downtown Luganville
Despite the presence of the 200 British and French commandos, life in
Luganville was as chaotic and normal as usual. Patrols occasionally cruised the streets,
but only to order and purchase supplies for the men. It was a crazy situation. The British
forces were armed to the hilt whereas the French were unarmed. They were confined solely
to the town limits. Generally, they had a rather pleasant stay - whilst some sun bathed on
the roof of HQ, others guarded a few key installations and the Burns Philp supermarket and
The soldiers had absolutely no powers of arrest, which undoubtedly
added immensely to the friendly atmosphere that pervaded Luganville. When they had
arrived, the forces had been smothered by women bearing kisses and garlands of hibiscus
and frangipani flowers. Naturally, they were nervous - they'd been expecting arrows and
rebel fire, not the warmth of women. They'd been sent half-way around the world on a
mission to squash the rebels and to destroy Radio Vemerama - but it was a mission that was
never to eventuate. They were to leave several weeks later with no battle scars other than
a few severe cases of sun burn.
Prior to the arrival of the colonial forces, the people of Santo had
been told that the island wouldn't be gaining independence along with the rest of the New
Hebrides on July 30, 1980. Due to the electoral fraud, the worsening relations with the
central government of Walter Lini, and a breakdown in diplomatic relations between the
colonial powers, Espiritu Santo would go it alone, but under the protective umbrella of
Britain and France. The people were told this by colonial officials, and were deceived.
Weeks after the townsfolk had cleared Pekoa Airfield and showered embrace upon the foreign
troops, the treachery was discovered.
Action on Air
Whilst the British and French commandos were on Santo, Walter Lini was
furious about their lack of action. However, he was even more furious to hear Radio
Vemerama broadcasts which had boosted its power from 350 to 1000 watts. Trying to bottle
his anger, the PM contacted London and 'requested' that the rebel radio station be
destroyed. London's response was to order the British force on the island to jam our
It was only a 'local' jam of approximately 60 watts, and
omni-directional. Throughout the rest of the New Hebrides and the pacific region, the
station maintained its clarity, but in the town our reception was shattered by an
incessant whine. We switched to 3577 kHz, but as soon as we'd popped in a new crystal, the
loyal British radio technicians followed us through the frequency band. However, at
selective (and often strange) locations throughout the town, there were blind spots with
no jamming interference. Each night, people came with picnic hampers and bottles of fine
red to pass another evening with Derek Hodding and Samander.
Whilst the natives enjoyed my broadcasts, the Vanuatu Party government
didn't. Relying on press releases from John Beasant, foreign correspondents labeled me as
being one of the rebel leaders. I didn't get the radio job for being a rebel - besides, I
could never match the leadership qualities of Molli Jimmy Stevens. My heart was crying out
for the people and their voice had to be heard. They'd suffered enough through fraudulent
elections and the antics of a one party central government.
They needed someone who understood the English language - someone who
could be an extension of their voice and match the wit of the left-wing Englishman, John
Beasant. Given the very low standard of the English education system in the islands, it
was obvious that a white man was destined for the position.
My voice was the voice of the people. They needed help, not weapons,
from their friends in the pacific area. They demanded that foreign governments put
pressures on Walter Lini to cease his open flirtation with communism. On the western
political scale, the basic equivalent to native custom and tradition is so distantly
removed from communism. Wishing to preserve their custom, the natives were horrified of
the consequences of the central government's flirtation with the reds. These were some of
the messages that I broadcast.
Just as we often changed frequency, the radio station location was
varied, crossing in and out of the town limits. Sometimes I found myself broadcasting from
a bedroom, other times from a lounge room or kitchen. The studios were never an elaborate
affair - the sound proofing was as tight as the louvered windows and the lips of the
Until the bulky double cabinet 1000 watt transmitter arrived, the 350
watt system was used. This comprised an old marine transceiver, a power amplifier, an
oscilloscope, a frequency counter, and of course, a turntable and a cassette player (that
provided the microphone hookup). It was an effective, but crazy set-up. I was practically
sitting on top of the transmitter, and often, to avoid the feedback, I used a record cover
to shield my voice. My radio technical knowledge is quite limited, and I vividly remember
one evening, when after hours of broadcasting, I discovered the microphone had been in the
wrong jack - there was no broadcast that night.
It was probably such incidents that spurred Radio Vanuatu to announce
that Radio Vemerama had been destroyed. However, until it was obvious that we were to be
over-run by PNG troops (whose first priority was to destroy the station), we continued
Due to the worsening relations between the New Hebrides, Britain and
France, Walter Lini ordered the colonial troops out of the country. He did this after
obtaining Australian and PNG assurances of military support. Australia was to provide
advisors, and Papua New Guinea was to send in heavily armed men.
Now, with British Hercules out of the scene, and Australian transports
winging their way across the Pacific, the scene had changed. I know that life wasn't meant
to be easy, but it was becoming more nerve wracking and less bearable. Each night, an
Australian spotter plane skimmed across the coconut palms, homing in on the 'rebel'
As the rats that had been feasting on the fleshy coconut meat fell to
the ground in terror, I knew that the tide had turned - that Molli Jimmy Stevens (despite
his increasing international support), had failed, and that Radio Vemerama was soon to
The station was to die gracefully, its transmission periods decreased
each evening. As the PNG troops dispersed themselves throughout the town, we switched
locations and back to the 350 watt transmitter. Each night the risks were higher. We
stayed on air until it became obvious that it would be sheer suicide to continue.
Whilst I've accused the British and French governments of totally
ignoring New Hebrideans and of irresponsibly allowing independence without first nurturing
the country to a reasonable degree of maturity, I don't wish to pass judgement on the
Australian government's involvement.
I fully support the Fraser Government, and had I been living in
Australia at the time, my desire to crush those nasty rebels would probably have been just
as strong. Further, I'd probably have agreed that it was better to buy off Walter Lini
with aid money to help deflect his flirtation with communism. I'm proud to be an
Australian, but I'm equally proud of my involvement with Radio Vemerama. I wasn't only
concerned about the preservation of New Hebridean custom, but also about the general
stability of the pacific basin. My country, along with Espiritu Santo, and scores of other
islands, was at stake.
I introduced this article by stating that Radio Vemerama was a
political time bomb. It did explode, but I escaped the shrapnel. Relying on a very old
friend of mine (who was, incidentally, a member of Walter Lini's police force), I knew the
orders had been given that I was to be shot on sight. There was to be no kangaroo court,
merely a coffin to be flown across the Pacific.
Naturally, I didn't enjoy entertaining such thoughts. I went into
hiding just before a green light signaled a special task force to commence its hunt for
I stayed in hiding and communicated with the Australian High
Commissioner. After a week of continual negotiations, I agreed to surrender on the
condition that my safety was assured. At 10am on Thursday, August 28 1980, I surrendered
to authorities at the Luganville British police station. After being interrogated, I was
thrown into the French prison.
Two days later, I was flown aboard a PNG Defence Forces DC3 to Port
Vila. There, I was detained a further eleven days. No charges were laid against me. Given
that I'd been detained illegally, I sought the assistance of the Australian High
Commission, and was finally released and departed the islands on September 10.
Molli Jimmy Stevens was given 14 ½ years and New Hebrides was given
life. But, knowing the political nature of this once tropical paradise, I doubt that it'll
be life. The heavy hand of Father Walter Lini will cause his own demise.
A sequel to this March 10 1981 article is under discussion with the
author. SANTO SEQUEL plans to look back 20 years at Radio Vemerama and its impact on the
people of Espiritu Santo, including other notes about the broadcasts that weren't
According to the Pacific Islands Monthly magazine (October 1980), Radio
Vemerama was closed down on August 19, 1980 when Papua New Guinea Defence Forces captured
the transmitter. The last reported reception by listeners in New Zealand was on August 14,
1980, signing on at 9pm NZT on the frequency of 3577 kHz to avoid jamming attempts.
Santo has always attracted radio stations. The first was WVUR in 1944,
which operated on 1045 AM as part of the Armed Forces Radio Service and the Mosquito
Network. In 1976, Jimmy Moli Stevens was involved in an earlier radio adventure with Radio
Tanafo, and Radio Vemerama was followed shortly afterwards with a low powered FM
transmitter and local FM studio for Radio Vanuatu. By 1998, Radio Vanuatu had reopened
another AM station, using 1179 AM and broadcast on 98.5 FM as well.
This introductory article is based on listener observations in New
Zealand and correspondence from Jimmy Moli Stevens, President of the Na-Griamel
Federation. It now forms part of the Pacific Radio Heritage Collection (c) which has all
rights reserved to Ragusa Media Group, PO Box 14339, Wellington, New Zealand. This
material is licenced on a non-exclusive basis to South Pacific DX Resource hosted on
www.radiodx.com for a period of five years from August 20 2000.
Author: David Ricquish 1954-
Listeners to Radio Vemerama in 1980 can be forgiven a sense of deja vu.
Here they were again listening to a clandestine radio station broadcasting from the island
of Santo, operated by the same secessionist leader as four years earlier, and not too far
along the dial from the previous station.
Like Radio Vemerama, Radio Tanafo also broadcast from the fortified
hilltop village of Tanafo, the home base of Jimmy Moli Stevens and his movement seeking
self-determination for the people of Espiritu Santo.
First noted in January 1976, the station initially broadcast on 7120
kHz SW, later moving to 3975 kHz before settling on 3900 kHz for some months. By April,
another move back to 3975 kHz was planned, and by September, the station was also being
heard on 3990 kHz.
Broadcasts opened with 'God Save Our Native Land' at sign-on and the
same song was heard again at sign-off. Daily broadcasts began at 2330 UTC to 0200 UTC, and
again from 0700 UTC to 1000 UTC. Broadcasts were completely in Bislama for the local
audience, with programs in French and English planned later in its existence.
Radio Tanafo used a transmitter power of just 60 watts into a dipole
aerial system, the signal being heard in New Zealand and Australia during the evening
Both British and French officials in Vila, New Hebrides and at
embassies and high commissions in Australia and New Zealand refused to acknowledge the
existence of the radio station. Australian and New Zealand media at the time seem to have
failed to report on the broadcasts as well.
A unique confirmation letter was received by Paul Ormandy, of Oamaru,
Further detailed research remains to be carried out on the broadcasts
of Radio Tanafo. The political and social context for the broadcasts is similar to that of
the later Radio Vemerama, but details remain unknown about the funding for the Radio
Tanafo equipment, local response to broadcasts, program content, and when and why the
transmissions ceased. There are indications that French government and French settler
backing was behind the 1976 broadcasts, which may have been designed to build local voter
support either against independence or in favor of a separate state from an anglo
dominated one centered in Vila. French police seem to have made no effort to close the
station down over at least a nine-month period on a relatively small island, and
reportedly blocked British administration attempts to do so. The joys of having both the
French and the British jointly administering the islands.