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Group from New Caledonia pledge to invest

By Godwin Ligo PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Sept. 27, 2009) – A young ni-Vanuatu who has lived for 24 years in New Caledonia has said people from Vanuatu who live in New Caledonia are now ready to invest in their lands in Vanuatu.

Tony Sube Sere Malo said ni-Vanuatu living in New Caledonia have funds for economic development activities back in their home country and are prepared to work closely with the people here to invest their funds in agriculture and other economic sectors of the country.

Tony was in Vanuatu for over a week with a group of 24 men and women who were born and brought up in Luganville Santo but left the country before or after Independence to live in New Caledonia.

After 30 years of Independence, 24 of them have returned to Vanuatu to look at the ways in which they can invest in where they were born and grew up and that is in Luganville Santo and elsewhere in the country.

Tony is the President of the SANMA Association, taking together people from Santo and the offshore islands.

The group first went to Santo where they met and performed custom ceremonies with SANMA officials burying the past and renewing their relationship with the people of Luganville.

This was their homeland until Independence when they or their parents left the country during the 1980 political struggle for Independence and some left before or at the time of Independence.

In 2002 the current Prime Minister Edward Natapei and the then Foreign Affairs Minister Serge Vohor, performed a reconciliation ceremony in New Caledonia with those who were deported from Vanuatu after Independence.

This prompted them to return to their birthplace. The opportunity came up with the formation of the Association of SANMA-New Caledonia and SHEFA-New Caledonia Association.

The reconciliation ceremony in Santo last week saw the 24 men and women presented gifts of mat, calico and a piece of nickel to the President of SANMA Provincial Government and the SANMA Council.

Tony explained to Daily Post that the mat and calico and cash gifts were the symbol of peace and unity while the nickel was the symbol of bride that enable them to travel between the two countries. In accepting the gifts and in exchange the SANMA Provincial Government officials presented the group with mats, a walking stick and an empty basket.

In accepting the gifts the group assured the SANMA Provincial Government that the empty basket will be filled and overflow with economic development assistance they plan to bring to Vanuatu. At the same time they call on the Government and local authorities to give them the opportunity to dos so.

He explained, " We wish to tell the Vanuatu Government and the people of Vanuatu that ‘ Land is Gold’ and must not be sold outright as we have seen for ourselves on this tour". " We ask the Vanuatu Government and the people of Vanuatu to give an opportunity to the children of Vanuatu living in Caledonia to come in with the investment funds we have to develop agricultural and other economic projects back here in Santo and Vanuatu,. We are prepared to inject back into our birthplace what we have not only in the economic sector but also in building schools, clinics, water projects and other similar projects for the our people back here" he said.

Before leaving to return to New Caledonia, the group called on the SHEFA Provincial Government where similar reconciliation ceremony took place on Wednesday this week. The group was introduced to the SANMA Provincial Secretary and staff by the President of the SANMA –New Caledonia Association in Noumea Daniel Kalo who has lived in New Caledonia for many years.

Exchange of gifts took signifying peace reconciliation between SHEFA Province and the group. Kalo told SHEFA Provincial Council that there has reconciliation has already taken place between the SHEFA Province and the people of Vanuatu living in New Caledonia.

SHEFA Provincial Secretary General Michel Kalworai told the group that SHEFA Provincial Government is ready to work with both groups and other Vanuatu groups from other Provinces that have their people in New Caledonia.

Both Presidents of the SANMA and SHEFA Association in New Caledonia assured the group that their members will now turn to Vanuatu to invest in their motherland.

He said: "When they are in New Caledonia, people there would ask where are you from. If they reply that they are from New Caledonia, the answer in return is that no, they do not belong to New Caledonia. The same goes when they are here in Vanuatu. So we feel that we don’t belong to anywhere," Tony said.

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