NEWS FROM THE FRENCH PACIFIC

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Thursday, July 1, 1999
PINA Nius Online

HIGHLIGHTS

14,000 FRENCH POLYNESIANS CELEBRATE AUTONOMY

PAPE‘ETE, French Polynesia (July 1, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---An estimated 14,000 French Polynesians took to the streets on Tuesday to participate in the fifteenth annual celebration of autonomy.

The event, called Hiva Vae Vae in Polynesian, featured a massive parade in the streets of the capital, Papeete, with dances and musical bands.

There also were and many celebrations in all provinces of French Polynesia, where both anthems, the French Marseillaise and the Polynesian La Ora o Tahiti Nui, resounded.

"This celebration of autonomy symbolizes the friendship and solidarity between the French state and French Polynesia, the latter being in control of its development and future," Vice President Edouard Fricht said in his address as hundreds of white doves were being released into the Papeete sky.

Also in Papeete, President Gaston Flosse and French High Commissioner Jean Aribaud were playing host to Tonga's Prime Minister Baron Vaea, on a one-week official visit here, who had just been decorated with French Polynesia's highest decoration, the Knight in the Order of Tahiti Nui.

Thirty-four musicians from the Tongan Royal Military Band had been flown in for the occasion.

The event this year was enjoyed by a record number of participants, RFO radio reports, further noting that this year's celebrations of autonomy carry a special significance.

Last June 10, the French National Assembly unanimously passed a constitutional amendment to the French constitution, enabling French Polynesia to become soon an "overseas country," instead of an "overseas territory."

The amendment, which is to be endorsed by the French Senate on October 13, also provides for a French Polynesian citizenship and the ability to sign international treaties without referring to Paris' central government.

TONGAN PRIME MINISTER DECORATED WITH PRESTIGIOUS TAHITIAN ORDER

PAPE‘ETE, French Polynesia (July 1, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---Tongan Prime Minister Baron Vaea was on Tuesday bestowed with the prestigious order of Tahiti Nui, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles reported here.

Baron Vaea, who is in French Polynesia on a one-week official visit, also attended the territory's autonomy celebrations.

Accompanied by French Polynesia's agriculture and culture ministers, Patrick Bordet and Louise Peltzer, the Tongan Prime Minister visited Vanilla Island, where most of the cultivation is focused on this aromatic orchid.

He shared experiences with the local growers.

Back in Papeete, Baron Vaea also visited the capital's fisheries and fish market and the Pearl Museum.

He was to fly back to Tonga on Wednesday.

MISS TAHITI REMAINS MISS FRANCE '99, PARIS COURT RULES

PAPE‘ETE, French Polynesia (July 1, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---Controversial Miss Tahiti Mareva Galanter will remain Miss France 1999 following a French High Court ruling in Paris, RFO-radio reported here Wednesday.

After one week of hearings, the French Tribunal de Grande Instance ruled it was "not established that Miss Tahiti's election to the title of Miss France was the consequence of a fraud."

The court rejected complaints from a group of disgruntled television viewers formed into a so-called "national association for transparency in Miss France's election." (ANTEMF)

They alleged that their 300,000 votes cast by phone (which preferred a Miss from another French region) had not been taken into account.

Last December 12, in Paris, Miss Tahiti, Mareva Galanter, was crowned Miss France.

The event was broadcast live on French national television and an estimated twelve million viewers were asked to phone in and cast their votes, on top of the jury's verdict.

ANTEMF had brought the case to court, against Miss France's contest organizer, Geneviève de Fontenay.

They alleged Miss Galanter had been favored by the jury on several grounds: because she is the niece of the jury's President, famous French singer Sacha Distel, because she was granted much more coverage prior to the election than the other contestants, and because her grandmother is an influential staff member of the organizing committee.

"Mareva, I'm happy to tell you that you are still Miss France and that no one will take this title away from you", de Fontenay told the Tahitian Miss through RFO-radio.

Galanter said she never had doubts about her legal crowning.

"I'm not surprised (by the verdict). All this didn't really concern me, and it's also a possibility that I will surrender my crown soon. I'm not worried," she said.

FIRST FRENCH POLYNESIAN BECOMES AIRCRAFT CAPTAIN

PAPE‘ETE, French Polynesia (July 1, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---Forty-eight-year-old French Polynesian pilot Patrick Wurfel on Wednesday became the first Polynesian to become an international aircraft captain, RFO-radio reported here.

Wurfel, who has been flying aircraft on French Polynesia's domestic airline Air Tahiti for 23 years, is now qualified to pilot international airline Air Tahiti Nui's Airbus A340.

"It is every pilot's target to become a captain. And when this happens, it is a delightful moment. It means a recognition of my capacities by a very complex system, which includes the airline, civil aviation and my own colleagues", Wurfel said.

"I'm the first, but soon I won't be the only one. Another of my colleagues, also from French Polynesia, will qualify as a captain later this month," he added.

WALLIS AND FUTUNA TEACHERS STRIKE

MATA‘UTU, Wallis and Futuna (July 1, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---Teachers in the French territory of Wallis and Futuna went on strike Wednesday, demanding a wage increase of 2.05 percent, RFO-radio reported.

The action is being pursued mainly by primary school teachers, but also has in secondary schools and by public servants in the meteorological office.

AIR TAHITI NUI SIGNS DEAL WITH AUSTRALIA'S QANTAS

PAPE‘ETE, French Polynesia (July 1, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---Australian airline Qantas on Wednesday signed a deal with French Polynesia's flag carrier, Air Tahiti Nui, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles reported.

The agreement, which was signed in Papeete, provides for the inclusion of preferential rates for stopovers in French Polynesia, as well as better connecting flights for passengers en route from Australia to the United States.

"This commercial agreement with the Tahitian company is another demonstration of the way Qantas is developing partnerships towards better customer service," USA-based public sales Vice-President Howard Goldberg told RFO.

"Qantas enjoys a leadership position in the South Pacific. It is therefore important that we offer our passengers as many opportunities as possible to discover Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tahiti," he added.

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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