NEW CALEDONIA NEWS

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Tuesday, September 14, 1999

PINA Nius Online

"VENDÉMIAIR" FRIGATE ON ITS WAY TO EAST TIMOR FROM NEW CALEDONIA

NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (September 14, 1999 – PINA Nius Online)---The surveillance frigate "Vendémiaire" has left New Caledonia for the Timor Sea on a "precautionary" mission ordered by French military officials, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

The vessel, which left here on Saturday, has a crew of 90 and can remain at sea for 45 days without reprovisioning. It also has an onboard helicopter.

It is executing orders from the French Ministry of Defense in Paris in response to the tense situation in East Timor.

It should arrive in the East Timor area by the end of the week, "Vendémiaire" captain Olivier Saint Martin said.

One of the ship's missions (usually maritime surveillance) may be to pick up refugees, if such an order is issued.

"We have the facilities to evacuate refugees and provide medical care on board," Saint Martin added.

The "Vendémiaire" will join a fleet of Australian and U.S. navy vessels already positioned in the area.

NEW CALEDONIANS PROTEST IN FRONT OF INDONESIAN CONSULATE

NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (September 14, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---Some thirty New Caledonians gathered in front of the Indonesian Consulate here Saturday, demanding explanations about the situation in East Timor, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

In a peaceful protest, the demonstrators, led by the New Caledonia Writers’ Association, asked the Indonesian Consul for clarifications about the current repression of the people of East Timor.

"The New Caledonian Writers' Association cannot remain silent in the face of the organized massacre of Timor inhabitants," a petition intended to be forwarded to the Indonesian government through the Consul stated.

"In spite of a referendum which clearly showed the people of East Timor's desire for freedom, your army and its anti-independence militia watchdogs chose the ethnic cleansing way," the petition said.

"Mr. Consul, we regard your government as bearing sole responsibility for assassinations and massive transfers of Timorese to other islands. If your country doesn't want to be perceived as the Nazi equivalent throughout our region, this planned, bloody repression must cease immediately."

The association is made up of writers, local political figures and environmental organizations.

"This is all about proclaiming a humanistic stand, based on respect for human rights," a participant said.

As the consulate doors remained closed all morning Saturday, the protesters finally decided to post the petition on the building's front door and leave.

It was quietly removed later in the afternoon.

AUSTRALIAN AND FRENCH NAVIES COMPLETE JOINT EXERCISES

NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (September 14, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---Two Australian military patrol boats have completed a series of naval exercises in New Caledonia with the French navy here, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

The two Australian ships participated in training for ten days with the "Royale," based in the French territory and under the leadership of Toulon (France)-based French navy trainers who were assigned to New Caledonia for the project.

Both Australian and New Caledonian crewmembers were tested on their abilities to face the toughest situations, including containing a fire on board, navigation challenges and international cooperation exercises.

Each vessel had to prove its skills in each area before moving to more complex tasks.

Australian Navy Commander Johnson visited his troops during the training exercise and pointed out to them the value of such joint military exchanges.

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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