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NOUMEA, New Caledonia (April 18, 2000 – Oceania Flash/SPC)---A three-day seminar involving representatives from the local government, health agencies, and a full spectrum of associations ended on Saturday with a series of moving testimonies by AIDS victims, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

The workshop, called "Sidagir 2000 (AIDS Action)," which was hosted by the Pacific Community at its Noumea-Anse Vata headquarters, had the goals of increasing awareness and defining future policies for New Caledonia regarding AIDS and HIV prevention.

It was the first of its kind ever organized in the French territory. Apart from AIDS and HIV victims, a theatre group, "Pacifique et Compagnie," performed AIDS-related plays to the audience of officials and representatives.

"It’s as if we were confessing something, but we’re not guilty of anything," AIDS sufferer Valérie told the conference.

"Keeping quiet gradually becomes part of us, just like the virus," an HIV-positive person said.

A church pastor also came forward to tell the conference that he saw his son die of AIDS.

"I find it very difficult to forgive this society, this society that kills with words, that pushes to a social death, even before your physical death," he said.

New Caledonia Congress First Deputy Speaker Marie-Noëlle Thémereau, who participated in the discussions, said "I am convinced that even today, over 90% of the Congress’s and Provinces elected members would tell you that AIDS is a matter of homosexuals and prostitutes," she said.

The conference ended with a set of recommendations calling for a stop to discrimination and prejudice against AIDS and HIV sufferers, for better reproductive health education and better counseling.

Another of the resolutions was to explore the possibility of a New Caledonian coordinating committee, which would consist of representatives of all components of society: politicians, legislators, traditional chiefs, religious leaders, associations.



NOUMEA, New Caledonia (April 18, 2000 – Oceania Flash/SPC)--- Negotiators are close to final agreement on a minimum monthly wage of close to US$ 1,000 by 2002, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

Negotiations started last year between government authorities and representatives of the private sector.

The only areas in which agreement has not been reached yet are the hospital and medical professions and the mining industry.

The planned indexation varies slightly from one professional category to another, but remains close (with a margin of plus or minus ten percent) to 100,000 French Pacific Francs monthly (around US$ 1,000).



NOUMEA, New Caledonia (April 18, 2000 – Oceania Flash/SPC)---Experts from the Pacific Community’s Offshore Fishing Program (OFP) last week stressed that tuna remains by far the Pacific Ocean’s biggest asset, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

Three SPC researchers, Wade Whitelaw, Bruno Leroy and Peter Williams, gave presentations at Noumea’s Cercle Nautique Calédonien (CNC) focusing on fisheries resources in the Western Pacific.

They stressed tuna was the most valuable, with around 1.5 million tons caught each year, half of the world’s catch.

The commercial value of this catch is about US$ 1.7 billion a year.

In terms of exports, tuna amounts to about a third of the total value of exports from the Pacific Islands region.



NOUMEA, New Caledonia (April 18, 2000 – Oceania Flash/SPC)---A Noumea tribunal last week found union leader Didier Guénant guilty of obstructing freedom of movement during a recent strike and fined him 200,000 French Pacific Francs (about US$ 2,000 U.S.), the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

Guénant’s SOENC union (Union of Workers and Employees of New Caledonia) recently staged a long strike involving picketing at wrapping products manufacturer Cellocal.

The strike included a total blockade of road access to Noumea for one day.

The court, after one week of deliberation, found Guénant guilty of being an accomplice to obstructing freedom of movement.

Seven truck driver members of SOENC were fined earlier for unloading dirt onto the roads and in front of Cellocal, blocking all traffic.



NOUMEA, New Caledonia (April 18, 2000 – Oceania Flash/SPC)---An Australian Aboriginal and a New Zealand Maori artist are part of a traveling Art Bus exhibition, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

The exhibition, which this year is devoted to women artists, is visiting primary schools in the French territory.

Workshops are also organized at the schools.

Maori art is presented by Robyn Kahukiwa. Sally Morgan offers Aboriginal art and Micheline Néporon and Laure Jégat provide New Caledonian art.

"The whole purpose of this project is to bring children something that will show them something else than the traditional arts lessons usually given at school. This is all about opening new horizons for the kids," Art Bus worker Lolita Masia-Sévillano said.

She said the reason for choosing women artists this year was because the children had always been exposed to "male, dead and French metropolitan artists."

"So they had that misconception that in order to be an artist, you had to be either dead or a man."

The bus (which last year served an estimated audience of 8,500 children) will tour schools throughout the French territory until November. The project, which began in 1995, is supported by New Caledonia (60%) and by the French government (40%).

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