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By Jack Metta The National, Papua New Guinea

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (November 4, 2000 - PINA Nius Online)---Papua New Guinea, as a proud, independent nation, is a fine example for the people of New Caledonia, 8th Pacific Festival of the Arts organizing committee deputy director Jacques Boengkih said here.

"Papua New Guinea's presence in numbers at the festival here is important because its mere participation exemplifies the pride, the independence and the faith that founded a nation," he said.

"This is a boost to the reawakening of the New Caledonia people's culture, which has been influenced by Europeans for many years," he added.

Mr. Boengkih was speaking on the eve of the closing ceremony of the festival.

"PNG's identity is well known and its presence at this festival helps to strengthen the aspirations and hopes that other nations, including New Caledonia, hold for the future, he said.

"New Caledonia belongs to the Pacific and the presence of so many Pacific nations, including Papua New Guinea, amplifies that reality.

"Papua New Guinea, in particular, is a Melanesian country and one which other Melanesian nations look up to as the 'big brother.'

"You have achieved your Melanesian identity and your participation here is taking us back to Melanesia."

The 10-day festival in this French territory closed at the same place where the first official event took place - Ansa Vata, a popular tourist spot on the Nouméa beachfront.

The beachfront was the scene of the canoe welcoming ceremony last Monday (October 23) and the official opening ceremony of the festival planned for the afternoon was deferred, due to bad weather, to Thursday that week (October 26).

The festival was beset by bad weather and logistical problems during the last 10 days, but overall it achieved its purpose of uniting the Pacific, showcasing its diverse cultures and arts.

For the Kanak people, it was an achievement as well as a learning experience, particularly so when New Caledonia had undertaken the organization of the festival under the auspices of the Noumea Accord - which, among other things, offered recognition of the Kanak culture by the French government.

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