NEWS FROM NEW CALEDONIA AND FRENCH POLYNESIA

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Wednesday, July 7, 1999 PINA Nius Online

FRENCH OVERSEAS ASSISTANT MINISTER TO VISIT FRENCH POLYNESIA

PAPE‘ETE, French Polynesia (July 7, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---French Assistant Minister for Overseas Territories, Jean-Jacques Queyranne, is to pay an official visit to French Polynesia in September, RFO-radio reports.

During his visit, Queyranne is to meet with a broad spectrum of Polynesian society. He will consult with them about the drafting of an organic law that would define French Polynesia's new competencies under a wider autonomy status approved last June by the French National Assembly.

The metropolitan Parliament has passed a constitutional amendment endorsing a change in the political status of French Polynesia, making it an "overseas country" rather than an "overseas territory."

Under the proposals, which is scheduled to be endorsed by the French Senate October 13, 1999, French Polynesia could establish its own nationality and be able to handle foreign affairs matters.

French Polynesia already has two national anthems, a local one and the French Marseillaise, as well as two flags.

Queyranne's visit has yet to be officially confirmed, RFO noted.

FRENCH POLYNESIAN CUSTOMS SWITCH TO NEW COMPUTER SYSTEM

PAPE‘ETE, French Polynesia (July 7, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---French Polynesia's customs officers are installing a new computerized customs clearance system this week which is designed to speed up the process, RFO-Radio reports.

The new system, code-named SOFIX, was designed in metropolitan France.

The system's primary goal is to shorten the time it takes to access imported goods, especially by ship at Pape‘ete's main wharf.

The project also is expected to provide officers with more time to clamp down on false declaration offenders and those trying to avoid import taxes, customs inspector Serge Noe said.

FRENCH POLYNESIANS FROM MARQUESAS ISLANDS PREPARE TO MEET THE POPE

PAPE‘ETE, French Polynesia (July 7, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---Some 20 young Catholics from Tauatase Island (Marquesas group) are currently raising funds to travel to the Vatican to meet the Pope next July, RFO-Radio reports.

The teenagers, who plan to spend two weeks in the Vatican and Rome, have set up a prayer fund and are staging Biblical scenes in order to raise funds for the much-anticipated trip.

They will meet Pope John Paul II as part of a worldwide Catholic youth group.

Each participant has to raise some 250,000 French Pacific Francs (US$ 2,500) to support the trip's costs.

Parents in the island community have pointed out that those teenagers selected for the trip will have to "obey their parents" and be "fully committed to the fundraising activities."

ELECTRICITY, PHONE LINES CUT OFF IN ROADBLOCKED MINING SITE

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (July 7, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---A seven-week-long protest movement in the northern nickel mine of Nakéty (near the village of Canala), led by angry traditional landowners, worsened on Tuesday as electricity and phone lines were cut off, RFO-radio reports.

Parents said they had decided not to send their children to school until the situation was solved.

The nickel mining site has been paralyzed since May 18 after landowners, supported by some workers at the mining site belonging to the powerful Ballande conglomerate, disapproved of a restructuring plan within the mine, which plans to lay-off half of its 30 employees.

Roadblocks were erected two weeks ago on the site's access ways, by both strikers and workers who wanted to fight for their right to work.

But the confrontation turned more violent last week, when two villagers were manhandled by mine employees as they were driving through Nakéty village.

A fight resulted, but no one was seriously injured, police said. However, the windows of their mini-bus were smashed and a bush knife was later found in the car's body.

Nakéty villagers soon retorted by assaulting mine employees who had gone to the extraction site. Another fight entailed, with no one injured, but windows of the truck they were driving were smashed and its tires punctured.

Another four-wheel drive car nearby was smashed and burned.

Mine employees later erected a roadblock made of dozens of tons of earth, preventing any vehicle from passing through.

Canala's Mayor has since urged the Noumea-based High Commission's office and the one-month-old New Caledonian government to ensure order is maintained.

This bulletin was produced by the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA). Patrick Antoine DECLOITRE, Editor Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Damodar Centre, Level 2 46 Gordon Street Suva, Fiji Islands Tel: (679) 315 113 Fax: (679) 303 943 Mobile (679) 946 396 E-mail: pinafr@is.com.fj

For more information, contact Nina RATULELE, PINA Administrator, at pina@is.com.fj

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