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By Patrick Antoine Decloitre

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (Oceania Flash, Jan. 5) – All flags in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia will fly at half-mast today, as a sign of respect for the victims of the tsunamis that struck eight Indian Ocean countries.

New Caledonia's Congress said in a release that this would be observed by all of New Caledonia's institutions, including the territorial Congress, the local government and the three provinces - North, South and Loyalty Islands.

This, it said, followed a similar call made on Tuesday by French President Jacques Chirac and would also include three minutes of silence to be observed at all official levels.

Earlier this week, New Caledonia's government announced it had earmarked some ten million French Pacific Francs US$113,000) to the Indian Ocean quake and subsequent tsunami victims that devastated eight countries on December 26.

The French territory's government had earlier placed its financial commitment to two million CFP, but the figure was revised in the light of recent development regarding the magnitude of the natural disaster.

Meanwhile, several NGOs, including the Secours Catholique (Roman Catholic Relief) and the Red Cross say the response from New Caledonia's population has been so far very good.

Local media report the total amount collected to date amounted to 19 million CFP (US$211,000). The collected funds will be transferred back to the French Red Cross headquarters in Paris, which will then re-channel them to relief operations as part of the global effort.

Part of these donations in New Caledonia come from New Caledonia's influent Indonesian community, which accounts for an estimated 600 Indonesian citizens permanently residing in the French Pacific territory.

Some 6,000, now French citizens, are descendents from Indonesians, who came to New Caledonia from the island of Java, as part of an indentured labour scheme in the early 1900s.

January 5, 2005

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