Vanuatu Government Urged To Occupy Matthew and Hunter Islands

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Local leaders urge PM to up the pressure on France

By Godwin Ligo

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, May 14, 2014) – The news of the Vanuatu Prime Minister Moana Carcasses visiting Paris to talk to leaders of France on the issue of the claim of Matthew and Hunter Islands, has prompted some local leaders who feel something more than just talks should be done.

One such local leader who asked to remain anonymous, has some suggestions he feels the Vanuatu Government should seriously start to implement now on the islands.

"Even though Vanuatu has clear claims over Matthew and Hunter islands, this is based on traditions and old maps and underwater geography.

"Still, it must be acknowledged that Vanuatu still does not physically assert any claims to the islands over the past 30 years since it gained political independence.

"Perhaps the time has come to Vanuatu to make its claims upon the ground. That is to say that Vanuatu must visit the islands and undertake research on geology of the islands, archeology of the islands, seek historical, traditional links of the past with the rest of Vanuatu, carry out a study on sea and land birds live on the islands," he suggested.

He went on to state that Vanuatu should make an approach in the area and identify clear indication of probable underwater volcanic activity or Seamount that have never been explored before and that would shed light to the geographical connection with the rest of the rest of the islands of Vanuatu islands," he suggested.

He said while diplomacy is seen to be the best way to go into negotiation with France, the opposite side of the coin could be that it will constantly remind France to find every way to use to put a stop on Vanuatu claim of Matthew and Hunter Islands.

"While it may be seen to be a provocation in a way to France through New Caledonia, but Vanuatu must show physical signs that it does own the islands. Therefore take a step forward and set up a weather station on either Matthew or Hunter and, or a volcano monitoring device on one of them," the local suggested.

"It would also be ideal to do a total exploration of the islands. This is to establish facts that have not been made before," he recommended.

"In terms of any resources available that could be collected will further strengthens Vanuatu claims of the islands. Use the local resources such as archeologists and anthropologists to visit the islands and carry out the study on them to have real proof, rather than talks about territorial claims without facts on the ground," the man suggested.

"What Vanuatu must be careful of, for example, is under the real estate laws, if you don’t not get rid of the squatters from your land within seven years, then they have a legitimate claim on your land. You have to assert your rights quicker before it is too late," he pointed out.

He cautions that Vanuatu must not just continue to dwell on diplomatic talks because that does not prove the real traditions and other connections that he explained earlier.

The man cautioned the Vanuatu Government, because as he stated that if the dispute over Matthew and Hunter islands goes before the Court of The Hague, for example, and Vanuatu may lose out to France, which would mean losing something you have all along claimed to own, traditionally, physically and geographically, he cautioned.

"Even Vanuatu does not have a chance if one day France says enough is enough and place military control over the Islands. It would mean a win, lose situation or lose lose situation altogether for Vanuatu," he cautioned.

"Build a lighthouse on one of the islands, do something physical to show France that you really own the islands at heart and they belong to you. If your forefathers did it before and France did nothing then to stop them, then why not do it again now-physically claim the islands," he strongly strongly recommended.

"Following the raising of the flags on the islands, Vanuatu should set a small administrative control over the islands, increase scientific activities of the islands that would prove geographical as well and traditional and other proven links with the rest of the Republic of Vanuatu," he urged.

"For sure France will react, but Vanuatu will then have more proof in the UN and in Court to prove it owns the islands in the ways I am only suggesting," he said.

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