NEWS FROM NEW CALEDONIA

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Thursday August 19, 1999

PINA Nius Online

UNION LEADER SHOT AT NEW CALEDONIA ROADBLOCK

NOUMÉA---Mai Kouaoua Mining (MKM) Union Spokesman Lionel Cagnon was shot at a roadblock near the Nakety mining site by an unidentified sniper Wednesday.

RFO-television reporter Isabelle Hennequin Cagnon was interviewing Cagnon when he was wounded in the thigh by a single shot from a gunman hiding in nearby bushes.

Cagnon was talking about the growing tensions between Nakety landowners and his employer, MKM Company.

MKM was ordered to leave the nickel mining site last month after Ballande group struck a deal with a group of landowners.

The deal involved the forfeiture of the nickel mining site in exchange for a symbolic franc, but excluded MKM.

Assets valued at 300 million French Pacific Francs (US$ 3 million) were to be bought in kind by the new landowners with funds earned from future nickel production.

Cagnon was near the Canala roadblock that was erected a few days earlier by angry MKM staff, who are frustrated over being targeted by locals, even after they had already agreed to leave the site.

Their soon-to-be-dismantled mining camp was also ransacked earlier this month. Heavy machinery and company assets worth 20 million CFP were either stolen or destroyed by arson.

After being shot, Cagnon did not fall down, but went on commenting about the mine situation.

He then was driven to nearby Canala dispensary where his wound was treated.

Men at the roadblock retrieved their guns after the incident and fired shots in the direction from which the initial single shot came. No one else was injured.

Twelve police reinforcements were sent to Canala on Wednesday and are mounting a 24-hour patrol.

Police said the suspected sniper's identity was being confirmed and he is expected to be arrested soon.

The conflict started last May, when employees from Sociètè Miniêre de Nakety (SMN) went on strike to protest a restructuring plan by owner, Ballande, which involved firing half the workforce.

Ballande then suggested that MKM take over SMN, but Nakety landowners opposed the idea and demanded that MKM leave the site.

Since then, in spite of the latest Ballande offer to leave, tension has been mounting between the traditional landowners of Nakety and Canala villages. Each side has alternatively mounted roadblock after roadblock, one countering the other.

AUSTRALIAN, NEW CALEDONIAN MILITARY PERSONNEL JOIN FORCES TO RESCUE DISTRESSED SHIP

NOUMÉA---Australian and New Caledonian military personnel joined forces to rescue a distressed catamaran off the Chesterfield Islands Wednesday, Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

The catamaran "Ibis" had two people on board. It lost its mast 400 miles northwest of New Caledonia and started taking on water. It sent a distress signal, which was immediately picked up by a New Caledonian Army surveillance plane.

As the area is under the joint jurisdiction of French, Australian and New Caledonian authorities, the plane sent a message to Canberra in an effort to coordinate Australian involvement.

The French plane then located the distressed ship and dropped a first aid survival kit and a dinghy.

An Australian C-130 plane took off to establish visual contact with the ship.

Two cargo ships, NZOL Campaigner (from Singapore en route to Nouméa) and Capricorn Star were alerted by the Australian rescue center in Canberra. The vessels veered from their planned courses in order to engage the distressed ship and rescue the crew.

PORT VILA TO LEARN FROM NOUMÉA MUNICIPAL POLICE

NOUMÉA---Port Vila (Vanuatu) Mayor Patrick Crowby is visiting the municipal police of Nouméa this week to discuss opportunities for future cooperation between the two cities, Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

Crowby, who is on an official tour in New Caledonia, said he was particularly interested in learning from the Nouméa police how they deal with juvenile delinquency problems.

Crowby said delinquency is on the rise in Port Vila.

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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