NEWS FROM THE FRENCH PACIFIC

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Thursday, June 24, 1999
PINA Nius Online

HIGHLIGHTS 1. New Caledonia: New High Commissioner Appointed 2. French Polynesia: Tonga's Prime Minister On Official Visit 3. New Caledonia: Lafleur Disapproves Of French Polynesia's Autonomy Status

NEW HIGH COMMISSIONER APPOINTED FOR NEW CALEDONIA

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (June 24, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---The French Cabinet on Wednesday appointed a new High Commissioner for the Pacific Territory of New Caledonia, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reported here Thursday.

Thierry Lataste, 45, replaces outgoing High Commissioner Dominique Bur, who has spent nearly four years in New Caledonia as the French government's delegate.

Lataste worked in New Caledonia from 1991 to 1994 as the Territory's Secretary-General, the High Commissioner's right hand.

He has the reputation of having acquired a good knowledge of New Caledonian affairs through dialogue.

Since 1997, Lataste has been First Secretary to French Assistant Minister for Overseas Territories Jean-Jack Queyranne, who visited New Caledonia earlier this month.

"The Noumea Accord is an unforgettable experience. I have a personal attachment for the people and for the future of New Caledonia," Lataste commented. He is said to be politically close to the French Socialist Party of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

Outgoing Dominique Bur, who has served in New Caledonia since 1991, will be remembered as the man who took the Matignon Accords, signed in 1988, into the Noumea Accords (signed in 1998).

In 1988, the Matignon Accords, signed in Paris between anti-independence RPCR Party leader Jacques Lafleur and the late pro-independence FLNKS leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou, paved the way for New Caledonia's greater autonomy and brought back peace after years of civil unrest.

Tjibaou was murdered in 1989 by Kanak hard-liners in his own party, who thought he had betrayed the independence cause.

In 1998, the Noumea Accords, signed by Lafleur, Jospin and new FLNKS leader Roch Wamytan, granted further autonomy to the French Territory, leading to possible independence in the next "fifteen to twenty years."

Last month, the first New Caledonian government and its first President, Noumea Mayor Jean Lèques, were elected, under a provision of the Noumea Accords.

"He spent four years in the Territory at a key time in New Caledonia's history, " Les Nouvelles noted.

"He was appointed under a right-wing government. He was, however, trusted by the following left-wing cabinet (Jospin's)," Les Nouvelles pointed out.

Lataste's appointment in New Caledonia, Les Nouvelles said, should be welcomed by a wide spectrum of the population.

TONGAN PRIME MINISTER ON OFFICIAL VISIT TO FRENCH POLYNESIA

PAPE‘ETE, French Polynesia (June 24, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---Tonga Prime Minister Baron Vaea has started a one-week official visit in French Polynesia that coincides with the Internal Autonomy Celebrations on Bora Bora island, RFO reported here Thursday.

Baron Vaea met on Wednesday with French Polynesia's President Gaston Flosse and French High Commissioner Jean Aribaud.

He is also to meet Papeete's Lord Mayor and tour the islands of Rangiroa (where he will visit the shell industry's technical school) and Raiatea (where he will visit the shipyards).

In Bora Bora, Vaea, who is a guest of honor during the celebrations, will also be decorated with the prestigious Tahiti Nui Order.

LAFLEUR DISAPPROVES OF FRENCH POLYNESIA'S NEW AUTONOMY STATUS

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (June 24, 1999 - PINA Nius Online) - New Caledonia's anti-independence RPCR party leader Jacques Lafleur last week expressed disapproval oft the new political status for French Polynesia, allowing it to become an "overseas country " within the French republic, it was reported here Thursday.

Speaking to journalists during the recent visit of French Assistant Minister for Overseas Territories Jean-Jack Queyranne in Noumea last week, Lafleur said he saw the new French Polynesian status, which was endorsed by the French Parliament, as "independence within France."

"This is independence within France. I don't understand why this is allowed to take place. If France pours so much money in French Polynesia, it should have control of it. And I think it is in the interest of Polynesians to remain within the Republic, " Lafleur said.

New Caledonia, under the Noumea Accords, is considering independence in "fifteen to twenty years " from 1998, but in French Polynesia, the independence matter is not on the autonomy agenda.

This bulletin was produced by the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA). Editor: Patrick Antoine DECLOITRE For more information, contact Nina RATULELE, PINA Administrator, at pina@is.com.fj

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