WALLISIAN COMMUNITY SEEKS INCREASED ROLE IN NEW CALEDONIA POLITICAL LIFE

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NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (February 12, 2001 - Oceania Flash/SPC)---New Caledonia's Wallisian community has resolved to play an increasing role in the French territory's politics and strives to be better represented, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

The comments were issued Saturday, in advance of New Caledonia's municipal elections.

They came during the 9th annual Congress of the Rassemblement Démocratique Océanien (RDO, Oceanian Democratic Rally), a political party predominantly made up of Wallisian sympathizers.

Among current concerns within the Wallisian community in New Caledonia, which is larger in size than in Wallis and Futuna itself, are loss of cultural identity, increasing delinquency, violence and alcohol-related incidents.

During the Congress, Aloisio Sako, a Wallisian, was re-elected to head RDO, a faction of which has traditionally been associated with the pro-independence FLNKS umbrella in New Caledonia.

"These forthcoming (municipal) elections are going to be the first to take place since the signature of the Nouméa Accord. Therefore, the spirit of this accord must also prevail in the municipal councils.

"RDO must have elected members wherever Wallis and Futuna communities are settled," Sako said.

The Nouméa Accord was signed in May 1998 between the pro-independence FLNKS, anti-independence RPCR and then French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

It makes provisions for a growing autonomy status for New Caledonia and encourages a "spirit of collegiality" among leaders of the several communities in the French territory.

The Wallisian community first settled in New Caledonia over fifty years ago.

RDO intends to place candidates in the Wallisian-populated areas of Païta, Nouméa and the suburban towns of Dumbéa and Mont-Dore.

"For too long, our community has been kept away from politics here. Today it realizes that in order to take charge, it must have elected representatives.

"We have contributed to the growth of this country. We have worked hard. But nowadays all measure for a re-balancing of wealth is benefiting the Kanaks (New Caledonia's indigenous people), not us," Sako stressed.

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