NEW CALEDONIA NEWS

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Monday, August 30, 1999
Pacific Nius Online

NEW CALEDONIA'S ANTI-INDEPENDENCE JACQUES LAFLEUR OPENS UP ON SOCIAL UNREST

NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (August 30, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---Prominent New Caledonian political figure, anti-independence RPCR leader Jacques Lafleur, on Saturday strongly reacted to recent social unrest in the French territory, saying problems could have been averted if authorities had listened to him in time, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

In an interview published Saturday in Les Nouvelles, Lafleur said he had warned former High Commissioner Dominique Bur about potential social unrest in New Caledonia.

Last week, the Nouméa port and industrial area of Ducos were blockaded by disgruntled USOENC union strikers, who had been protesting for three months against the dismissal of 36 employees in the Cellocal wrapping products factory.

The conflict also affected two sister companies, Sotrapa and Sofraplast.

The three companies belong to Lafleur's son Pascal and daughter Isabelle.

On Friday, USOENC lifted the roadblocks and briefly focused on Lafleur's Southern Province headquarters in downtown Nouméa.

"USOENC politically exploited this situation against me," Lafleur said.

Another factor, Lafleur said, was the visit in New Caledonia last week of two delegations, one from the South Pacific Forum and the other from the United Nations, as part of a monitoring mission.

"But we can't give in to blackmail and threats."

"I didn't interfere into this matter. My children, Pascal and Isabelle, were able to play their role as company leaders. But the day they start to block roads, it becomes unacceptable. That's when I intervened. I cannot tolerate Caledonians to be taken hostage and I went to tell the strikers to cut it.

"But Dominique Bur solved nothing," Lafleur, who also is New Caledonia's Southern Province President, claimed.

He recommended a "generous" and "firm" attitude in dealing with social conflicts.

"We have 3,000 youths on our job market and France will not give us anything if we don't help ourselves."

"If anarchy prevails and other people react differently than I did, then things will turn bad in this country. It will become an under-developed country like French Polynesia, which, however, gets fabulous help from the French state."

"Let's not forget our country is developing," Lafleur said.

"But, then again, you can't make people happy against their will. I'm tired. My fighting spirit is intact, but I'm 66. And I'd like to have time to play the piano, paint, visit Central Europe. And also, you know, I have a very strong family feeling. I need time for my children and my grandchildren. Already, I don't chair the Southern Province's sittings any more, and I'm tired of National Assembly meetings in Paris."

Asked about who his successor would be after he retires, Lafleur named his current right-hand, Pierre Frogier, to follow in his tracks, including as a member of the French National Assembly.

"Pierre is a good MP. He's liked and respected in Paris. He’ll manage to fit into the tracks made. I'm not worried."

NEW CALEDONIA'S TRADITIONAL SENATE'S FIRST PRESIDENT ACKNOWLEDGES BIG TASK AHEAD

NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (August 30, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---Newly-elected traditional Senate President André Thean-Hiouen on Friday acknowledged a "big task" awaiting him, as he became the first to fill the position, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

Thean-Hiouen, 65, on Friday became the French territory's first Chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, which will be consulted on traditional matters and, more generally, any local items to be drafted by the newly-formed New Caledonian government.

"I said I was not applying for the job. That's probably why they chose me. I can't say I'm happy that I got this job, because the task is great. My happiness will be if I can find a solution," he said.

In his inaugural speech, he stressed the paramount importance of consensus in Kanak traditional values.

"Consensus is the very basis of our social structure. It’s the way for Kanak people to seek the truth and to end up in one ‘talk,’ everyone's ‘talk.’"

One of his main concerns is the issue of land.

"Building this country begins with the land."

Believed by some to be close to the Union Calédonienne (pro-independence) political party, he said on Friday, "I'm from the old ones' politics!"

He was elected for one year by the 16-member Senate, which was officially inaugurated last week as part of New Caledonia's new political structure, as recommended by the Nouméa Accords signed last year between the pro-independence FLNKS and anti-independence RPCR factions and French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

All members of the traditional Senate are high chiefs.

Its creation marks a first in the official participation of a Kanak body into the political structure in New Caledonia.

Visiting monitoring delegations from the United Nations and the South Pacific Forum witnessed Thean-Hiouen's inauguration.

NEW CALEDONIA LIKELY TO BE GRANTED OBSERVER STATUS AT SOUTH PACIFIC FORUM: BABA

NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (August 30, 1999 - PINA nius Online)---New Caledonia is likely to be granted observer status for the first time at the forthcoming South Pacific Forum (SPF) summit in Palau, Forum ministerial committee delegation leader Dr. Tupeni Baba told the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes Friday, as he wrapped up a monitoring visit to the French territory.

After a five-day visit in New Caledonia, which also coincided with social unrest, Fiji's Deputy Prime Minister and foreign affairs head gave a brief press conference on behalf of the SPF delegation.

"We're very happy with the outcome of the visit and the conclusions we could draw from our stay. The main aim was to assess the concrete evolution of the Nouméa Accords," Baba told journalists.

He was very clear about New Caledonia's observer status issue.

"There is no doubt in my mind. It's already clear that New Caledonia will have the right as soon as this year to observer status within the Forum, if, however, it officially requests it."

Earlier on Friday, Baba had talks with New Caledonia's President Jean Lèques, inviting him to make formal an official request to Forum headquarters.

The SPF monitoring visit in New Caledonia was the fifth since 1990 "at the kind invitation of the government of France," a SPF release said.

"The Forum Ministerial Committee was mandated originally to maintain an active and vigilant observation of developments in New Caledonia, and including progress on social, economic and political developments in the Territory, and the implementation of the 1988 Matignon Accords. Now that the Nouméa Accords has replaced the Matignon Accords, the focus of the Ministerial Committee has therefore shifted towards the implementation process of the Nouméa Accords."

During its mission in New Caledonia, the delegation, which met most players in the territory's economic, political, social and religious spectrums, "noted the overall positive support for the Nouméa Accords by most sections of the New Caledonian community as well as the implementation of the various political institutions as provided for under the Accords."

"The Forum Leaders at the Pohnpei meeting last year had agreed to give favorable consideration to a formal request from New Caledonia for its admission to the 1999 Forum as an observer," SPF recalled.

The SPF monitoring ministerial committee is to report in October to the 30th South Pacific Forum summit, which this year will be held in Koror, Palau.

VANUATU SCHOOL HEADS TRAINING IN NEW CALEDONIA

NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (August 30, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---Twelve French-speaking Vanuatu secondary school headmasters completed two-week’s training in the French territory last week, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

The training, which is funded under regional cooperation agreements between Vanuatu and New Caledonia, included two day of theory instruction in Nouméa and the remainder of the assignment in various secondary (government-funded and private) teaching institutions in the territory.

Vanuatu headmasters came mainly from the archipelago's islands of Espiritu Santo, Pentecost, Malekula (north) and Éfaté (where the capital Port Vila is located).

"In Vanuatu, a headmaster virtually does everything, from accounts to daily school life. On top of this, many times, he also has to go on teaching.

"Here, in New Caledonia, it's much more structured in terms of administration," a trainee said.

One major reason for the differences between Vanuatu and New Caledonia is the lack of operating funds in the neighboring independent state, the former French-British condominium of the New Hebrides Islands.

But Vanuatu headmasters say they are confident they have learned ways to get around those financial constraints, after participating in the New Caledonian case study.

"We have to stimulate teachers and students and have them join together in carrying out common school projects. Also, we must better prepare school councils, so they are more efficient and less time-consuming," a Vanuatu headmaster said.

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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