PACIFIC ISLANDERS UPSET OVER AUSTRALIA'S KAVA IMPORT RESTRICTIONS

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CANBERRA, Australia (October 16, 1997 - PACNEWS)---Pacific islanders living in Australia are upset at the Australian government's decision to restrict the import of kava, the non-alcoholic but intoxicating drink that is part of their cultural tradition.

Australia's Minister for Customs, Warren Truss, says the restrictions are necessary because of the devastating effect kava drinking is having on Aboriginal communities.

The First Secretary at the Fiji embassy in Canberra, Rusi Korovusere, says that the restrictions are "a disappointment" to the 30,000 members of the Australian-based Fijian community. He said kava was used as a social drink at ceremonies such as weddings and birthdays and also at official meetings.

Korovusere said the embassy was seeking further information about the new restrictions as well as clarification of the import permit system. He said the restrictions might be "an issue for discussion" at future talks between Australia and Fiji but at this stage no protest was being considered.

Travelers will still be able to bring kava into Australia but they will be allowed only up to two kilograms of kava roots or powder, used to make the drink.

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