FIRE DESTROYS ACTIVISTS' HOME IN NOUMEA

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By Jacques Boengkih (Translated by Bess Flores)

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (January 4, 1999 - Agence Kanak de Developpement/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Fire destroyed the Noumea home of the President of New Caledonia's Environment and Liberty Association on New Year's Eve.

The President, Bruno van Peteghem, a steward with Air France, flew to Tokyo on the afternoon of December 31 and will not return until next week.

His wife, Junko, and their three children left home at 7:45 p.m. to see the fireworks display in the center of Noumea. But when they returned at 9:00 p.m., they were blocked by firefighters.

The family could not see from the road, but quickly understood that, for the second time in barely a month, their home was on fire.

The first fire burned out their garage, their car, motorcycle and children's bicycles, but the police have not yet determined its cause.

From a neighbor's house, Mme. van Peteghem saw that this fire would soon completely destroy her home. Flames leapt from every room, and part of the roof had melted.

For 10 minutes, for some unknown reason, the firemen had insufficient water, but eventually managed to extinguish the blaze.

Mme. van Peteghem and her friends tried to find if anything was left. The family had lost everything from furniture to computer disks.

A heap of cinders had been the children's big comic book collection.

Computers in the parents' office were a mass of melted plastic.

Thick glass had miraculously protected archival files, but these could not withstand the firemen's hoses. Nothing useable remains.

For Bruno van Peteghem and the environment association, the garage fire had already raised questions: was it the price that they would pay for having spoken out against influential people? For having taken Henri Lafleur to court?

On New Year's Eve, those who rallied around were convinced that New Caledonia is slipping back into the days when the Kanak cause's European supporters had their cars dynamited and their boats burned -- the days when plastic bombs exploded in the Land Reform and Development offices, and in the courthouse itself.

As the New Year begins in the Territorial Assembly, some representatives are thinking about whether they may soon need bulletproof clothes and bodyguards.

Sarimin Jacques Boengkih

Agence Kanak de Developpement

Title -- 1854 KANAKY: Fire destroys environment activists' home Date -- 4 January 1999 Byline -- Jacques Boengkih (translation Bess Flores) Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Agence Kanak de Developpement boengkih@canl.nc>, 4/1/99 Copyright -- AKD Status -- Unabridged

This document is for educational and personal use only. Recipients should seek permission from the copyright source before reprinting. PASIFIK NIUS service is provided by the niusedita via the Journalism Program, University of the South Pacific. Please acknowledge Pasifik Nius: niusedita@pactok.net.au http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/nius/

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