NEWS FROM NEW CALEDONIA

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July 16, 1999
PINA Nius Online

MAYOR GUIGUI DOUNEHOTE FINED THREE MILLION DOLLARS, RETAINS POWER

NOUMEA---The Mayor of Voh, in the Northern Province of New Caledonia, was fined three million CFP French Pacific francs (US$ 30,000) Thursday for a questionable deal made in his municipality, the newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reported Friday.

Guigui Dounehote had voted to bring electricity, at high cost, to a valley where he is practically the only inhabitant, the court heard.

Dounehote argued that his decision was based on a re-population strategy for the valley, aiming to bring back groups driven out during the colonial era.

Dounehote argued that if he was one of the only inhabitants living in the remote area, it was because he was "trying to set an example."

The appeal court decided that Guigui Dounehote could retain his political position, as he has not been stripped of his civic rights.

Dounehote is both Mayor and Vice President of Northern Province.

The tribunal of Kone initially had fined him some nine million French Pacific francs (US$ 90,000).

NEW CALEDONIAN FIREMEN END TWO-WEEK STRIKE

NOUMEA---Firemen in New Caledonia ended a two-week strike Friday after their demands were met by the central administration, RFO-radio reported.

The firemen in the French Territory had ceased answering most calls, limiting their service to only the most urgent ones.

They were asking for more opportunities for promotion within their public service branch.

"This should have been done a long time ago. The plan was there, but it was deliberately put aside. Now we're hoping it will be implemented by next year," fire service corporal Hervé Nèche said.

"This new agreement is opening opportunities for junior firemen to further qualify within the service, which was not the case before."

Full service by the firemen is expected to resume by Monday.

LOCAL ASSOCIATION INVOLVES COMMUNITY IN REEF MONITORING

NOUMEA---Under the global Coral Reef Initiative (CRI) project, a New Caledonian association is currently monitoring local reefs, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reported here on Friday.

The Coral Reef Observatory (ORC) was set up in New Caledonia last June with the goal of involving members of the community in reef assessment activities throughout the French Territory.

Since its inception, ORC already has recruited some fifty members, most of them scuba divers wishing to help assess the condition of coral reef fauna and flora.

"We mainly focus on fish species, invertebrates, corals and the state of the sea bottom," said Yves-Marie Anne, one of the volunteers and a former biology teacher

Twice a year, teams of four persons make an inventory of what they find underwater, and then send their findings to CRI headquarters in Hong Kong, where results are analyzed and interpreted by specialists.

So far, the coast of eastern New Caledonia’s mainland has been studied by the ORC enthusiasts.

"So far, we have found the New Caledonian lagoon is in rather good shape," association President Monique Tournier said.

ORC now plans to further expand its activities by involving primary schools in coral reef educational projects.

"Children are tomorrow's adults. So it's important to educate them to respect their environment. It's about time New Caledonians become aware of the riches their lagoons contain, but they should never forget that these wonders are fragile and not immortal," Tournier stressed.

WORLD ANTHROPOLOGISTS MEET IN NOUMEA ON PACIFIC ISLANDERS' IDENTITY

NOUMEA---World-renowned anthropologists gathered in New Caledonia this week for a two-day seminar focusing on the Pacific peoples’ identity, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reported here Friday.

The meeting, which took place in the new Tjibaou Cultural Center, involved some twenty anthropologists and Pacific culture specialists from the United States, Canada, France and Australia.

They made presentations on the cultures of the region, including those of Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia.

Center director Marie-Claude Tjibaou, widow of the late pro-independence Kanak leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou, opened the meeting.

"It took us two years of hard work to organize this seminar and bring together the best specialists of the Pacific," Ambassador Pierre Guarrigue-Guyonnaud, France's permanent representative to the Pacific Community, said.

"The Tjibaou Cultural Center could, in the future, become an important hub in the field of research for the Pacific," he said.

"The challenge many Pacific cultures face nowadays is to reconcile their customs, their social and family links, and the Western lifestyle. On the one hand, you have a society based on solidarity and, on the other, a society based on money.

"We, who live in a consumer society, might have to learn from these traditional societies.

"In the West, the expression 'social fracture' has become quite popular these days. In the Pacific, where social links are the basis of everything, it just doesn't exist," the French diplomat 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 [email protected]

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