Vanuatu, France To Discuss New Caledonia Boundary Issue

Paris claims Matthew, Hunter Islands are part of territory of New Caledonia

By Jane Joshua

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Jan 3, 2017) – Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Bruno Leingkon, will be taking up the issue of Matthew and Hunter in France this month.

“On the 26th of January I will be in Paris, France, for dialogue over Matthew and Hunter,” Minister Lengkon conveyed during the 2nd Ordinary Session of Parliament in December, 2016.

“They have invited me over, to discuss a way forward over the two islands on January 26.

“We will not argue, we will discuss it.

“I have kick-started dialogue with the High Commissioner of France in New Caledonia, over a dinner.”

Mr. Leingkon said the Kanak people of New Caledonia, have no problem over the matter.

“They (the Kanaks) have agreed the two islands are ours,” he said.

“The problem is with France.”

France, has taken the matter to the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in New York.

Minister Leingkon made the assurance to queries raised by the Leader of Opposition, MP Ishmael Kalsakau.

This is not the first time Vanuatu ministers have engaged in discussions and raised concerns over the unresolved Matthew and Hunter border matter.

During the current Deputy Prime Minister, Joe Natuman’s tenure as Prime Minister (2015), he had met with the then France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius in New Caledonia and the two leaders agreed to resolve the dispute of the two islands amicably- France was willing to discuss the matter.

Previously, when Mr. Moana Carcasses was Prime minister (2014), he relayed his intention in parliament to lead a Vanuatu Government delegation to Paris, to resolve the maritime boundary dispute between Vanuatu and France over the southern islands.

This came about after the Vanuatu Government protested against the decision by the New Caledonia Government to establishment a marine natural park, which also covers Matthew and Hunter.

The late Edward Natapei was the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade at the time.

He wrote to then French Ambassador to Vanuatu, Michel Djokovic, saying the unilateral decision over a well-publicised disputed jurisdiction, was irresponsible and does not promote respect for Vanuatu’s national sovereignty and its traditional heritage and cultural rights.

March 9, 2017 will mark the 34th Anniversary commemorating the raising of the Vanuatu Flag on the Matthew and Hunter Islands, in 1983.

The two islands are geologically and historically part of the Vanuatu archipelago.

The Matthew and Hunter saga is covered in depth over three decades by Mr. Bob Makin, a veteran journalist who writes for the Daily Post. Mr. Makin was amongst those on the MV Euphrosyne traveling south to raise the flag and record the event for Radio Vanuatu on March 9, 1983.

Hunter is known as Umaineag or Fanumanu (Island of pigeons) and Matthew is known as Umainupni or Leka (Island of Mauitikitiki).

The discussions on maritime boundaries, came about when Parliament discussed the Bill for the Treaty between the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu concerning their Maritime Boundaries (Ratification) of 2016, which was tabled by minister Lengkon.

Vanuatu Daily Post
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