NEWS FROM NEW CALEDONIA

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August 9, 1999

PINA NUIS ONLINE

NEW ZEALAND, FRANCE " FRIENDLY TIES " REAFFIRMED AFTER NEW ZEALAND GOVERNOR GENERAL VISIT TO NEW CALEDONIA

NOUMEA---New Zealand's Governor General Sir Michael Hardie Boys wrapped up a four-day state visit with talks with key officials in the French territory, stressing " strong friendship ties " between the France and New Zealand on Sunday, Les Nouvelles Caledoniennes reports.

He responded to a personal invitation extended to him last November by French President Jacques Chirac.

During his four-day stay in New Caledonia, the New Zealand leader had talks with top New Caledonian officials, including French High Commissioner Thierry Lataste, New Caledonia's government president Jean Leques, French national assembly members Pierre Frogier and Simon Loueckhote, as well as pro-independence FLNKS President Roch Wamytan.

"We have reaffirmed France's presence in the Pacific and the very strong friendly ties we have with New Zealand or Australia for that matter,"

French MP for anti-independence RPCR (rally for New Caledonia within the French republic) Party Pierre Frogier said.

"We have also mentioned our new institutions and their installation process. He understood very well the problems we're going through right now," he said.

Last May, New Caledonia introduced its first ever local government, headed by President Jean Leques, under the wider autonomy granted by the Noumea accords (signed in May 1998).

"Under the Noumea accords, our government now has a part to play in New Caledonia's relations with regional countries. It is therefore our wish to further the current, excellent relations. And all this is in agreement with the French President and his foreign affairs minister," Leques said.

He mentioned possibilities for new exchanges between Noumea and Wellington, especially in the agriculture and tourism fields.

Pro-independence FLNKS (Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front) leader Roch Wamytan also met Sir Michael to tell him how concerned he was about the spirit of the Noumea accords not being respected by " our partner" (RPCR).

"I told him about the hardships we're going through in the day-to-day implementation of the accords," Wamytan said.

"I also stressed the fact that more and more, New Caledonia must integrate in its regional environment and develop partnership links at economic, trade, cultural or university levels, with New Zealand and other regional countries."

"Beyond our historical links, France and New Zealand have numerous relations. This is due to our geographical proximity, we're the closest of neighbors," Lataste told Sir Michael at an official function on Friday.

"Foreign affairs will be more and more on the agenda for New Caledonia. The (French) Republic now has the power to entrust the New Caledonian President with a competence to negotiate international treaties," he added.

"We therefore rely on New Zealand's understanding, the friendship and the support in this (Noumea accords implementation) 20-year long process," Lataste said.

"Just like many New Zealanders, I have a high interest in our common region, the South Pacific. With this visit, the strength our of relation is expressed at the highest level and it's true to say this relation has never been better," Sir Michael replied, officially inviting President Leques to New Zealand.

Sir Michael also visited Noumea-based Pacific Community headquarters and the new Tjibaou cultural center.

On Saturday, he left Noumea for Northern towns of Kone, Bourail and Poindimie (to visit a nickel mining site) and to the island of Lifou (in the Loyalty group), where he met traditional chiefs.

Sir Michael was in French Polynesia last June on a similar three-day official tour this other French Pacific territory.

He left New Caledonia on Sunday for Fiji, where he spends five days on a "state and goodwill" visit, the first of a New Zealand Governor General in this island state since 1985, diplomatic sources said.

He will meet top Fiji officials, including his counterpart, Head of State Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and prominent members of the executive, judiciary and legislative estates.

NOUMEA OPENS MORE CENTRAL VISITORS BUREAU

NOUMEA---New Caledonia's capital of Noumea officially opened its new building for new visitors bureau Friday, Les Nouvelles Caledoniennes reports.

The building, which is located right in the town's central Place des Cocotiers (coconut square), became functional last July 5, but was officially opened on Friday.

A focal point in Noumea, the square's location is expected to enable the new premises meet the needs of a larger number of tourists here.

New Caledonia's Southern province (where Noumea is located), Noumea town hall and the French government contributed to the costs of the new building.

Stressing the importance of the tourism industry in New Caledonia's economy, officials said the new facility would also ensure visitors have a pleasant stay in the French Territory and "return home happy."

NEW CALEDONIAN DEACON GETS TWO YEARS JAIL FOR HAVING SEX WITH TEENAGE GIRL

NOUMEA---A deacon in a protestant church of New Caledonia was found guilty of unlawful sex with a 16-year-old girl and sentenced to two years jail on Friday, Les Nouvelles Caledoniennes reports.

The unnamed church official, who is in 50, is a prominent kanak figure in the Lifou island (Loyalty group, north of here).

For the past two years, after he had moved to Noumea, he had sex on three occasions with the victim, a Melanesian kanak teenager placed under his care, the court found.

It was the Deacon who started to bring suspicion upon himself, when he called on the Noumea "SOS Sexual Violence" association office to inquire whether "it was an offence or not to have sex with a minor" and whether the girl was placed under his care made any difference.

The victim was also under pressure from her family not to talk about this, the court heard.

She finally confided in the same association, whose members then became increasingly suspicious of the Deacon.

Meanwhile, in a bid to protect their daughter, the family has chosen to move her to a boarding school outside Noumea, but the undeterred Deacon then began visiting her regularly.

"I had lost my mind. She kept on provoking by coming close to me," the defendant told the court.

"I have never wanted, never. But he had such a moral hold on me," the victim said, in tears.

14 NEW CALEDONIAN STUDENTS TO FIND NEW MARKETS IN NOUMEA'S AUSTRALIAN GOLD COAST TWIN CITY

NOUMEA--- Fourteen international trade students from New Caledonia left for a study trip to Noumea's twin city, Australia's Gold Coast, with a mission to represent New Caledonian companies, Les Nouvelles Caledoniennes reports.

The students, currently following a post-graduate international commerce technician diploma in Noumea, are visiting the Australian town as part of a study tour, but will also have to carry out the mission of promoting 27 New Caledonian companies.

The trainee international salespeople will promote the brands, which range from industrial, agricultural, food and tourism sectors, to Australian companies and possibly find new markets.

NEW CALEDONIA'S CAPITAL PASSES 35-MILLION US DOLLAR SUPPLEMENTARY BUDGET

NOUMEA---(August 6, 1999)---Noumea city council passed a $3.5 billion French Pacific Francs (US$ 35 million) supplementary budget for this year, Les Nouvelles Caledoniennes reports.

The bulk of the sum, which comes from unused funds from last financial year, is to be used for roads and sewage upgrading the French Territory's capital, the council heard from Mayor Jean Leques.

"Far from being lost, these public funds are now re-injected into this year's budget," Leques said.

Other parts of the funds will be allocated to public servants' payroll, public lighting and to new investments, including roofing of public buildings, cultural, school and sports equipment.

This bulletin is produced by the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA)/Association des Médias des `les du Pacifique (PINA)

Editor: Patrick Antoine DECLOITRE

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