Ouvea memorial

By Nic Maclellan in Fayaoue, Ouvea, New Caledonia

My legs haven’t seen much sun after a long Melbourne winter. So it’s always dangerous to end up on an atoll like Iaai (Ouvea), one of four making up New Caledonia’s outlying Loyalty Islands. The long, long sandy beach and blue lagoon are the ultimate tourist cliché, and the risk of sunburn increases every day when the ocean is just metres from your door.

Ouvea may look beautiful, but the island faces many challenges, from the adverse effects of climate change to providing education and employment options for its young people.

Beyond this, Ouvea carries a tragic burden of history. New Caledonia is moving closer to a referendum on self-determination on 4 November, the culmination of a twenty year decolonisation process that began with the Noumea Accord. This agreement, between the French State and parties supporting and opposing independence, was signed on 5 May 1998. That date is the tenth anniversary of the 1988 Ouvea massacre – a crisis that almost tipped the country into civil war.

Jobs and growth

Like other low-lying atolls around the Pacific, the changing environment raises questions for the future of food and water security on Ouvea.

The reef still teems with seafood, bur visiting the ocean side of the island near Saint Joseph, you can see the effects of coastal erosion. Local authorities have a key focus on addressing the immediate effects of climate change on water and food security – the provincial and municipal government run three desalination plants, with tankers delivering fresh water to homes and schools at times of water stress and low rainfall.

With limited waged employment, a number of working-age people seek education, employment or enjoyment on the mainland. At the last census in 2014, only 3,374 people were living on Ouvea, with many others migrating to the main island of Grande Terre.

Benjamin Malie is principal of the Guillaume Douare secondary college. He said that the lack of a senior high school on Ouvea contributes to this migration.

“We don’t have a lycée on Ouvea, so many families move to Grande Terre to assist their children complete schooling,” he said. “After they’ve finished, however, some of them don’t return, so many people from Ouvea are still living in Noumea or other towns on the mainland. Our college has dropped from 200 pupils to just 89 this year, and the Protestant and public schools have also seen reductions.”

Despite these constraints, there are a range of provincial and municipal initiatives to develop a sustainable model of development for the island. Members of independence parties have dominated nearly every provincial government in the Loyalty Islands over the least thirty years, in a province where the overwhelming majority of the population are indigenous Kanak. Local authorities are seeking to transcend the challenges of expensive transport and communications – a new wharf and warehouse on Ouvea now welcomes three boats a week to deliver supplies.

Like most outlying islands across the region, there’s a different pace to the hassle of the capital. Beyond their beauty, Ouvea’s beaches are a crucial economic resource – as a draw card for overseas and domestic tourists. In recent years, there’s been a particular emphasis on small-scale tourism, with gites (bungalows) set up in a number of Kanak tribes to tap the eco-tourist market or lure public servants from Noumea, looking for a beach escape during the school holidays. Locals run a range of small businesses, promoting walking tours, fishing or boating operations.

Despite this, New Caledonia’s economy is pegged to the obscene wages and bonuses paid to French public servants and the “value-adding” on imports undertaken by local business elites. Backpackers in the Loyalty Islands will find that the beer is cheaper in independent Vanuatu or Fiji!

Traces of history

Even with a focus on Ouvea’s economic future, however, you can’t avoid the traces of the past.

Driving along the island’s main road, you pass a tall green fence, topped with barbed wire, at the police station in Fayaoue. At nearby Hwadrilla, there is a roadside memorial “for the 19”, the Kanak martyrs of 1988. At the northern tribe of Gossanah, the old building for the Ecole Populaire Kanak (Kanak community school) is still festooned with banners, calling for non-participation in this year’s referendum, an echo of the boycott of New Caledonia’s last failed referendum in 1987.

Next to the sporting field at Gossanah, there’s the gravesite of Djubelli Wea, with a plaque that pays homage to death of three Kanak leaders in 1989 and the reconciliation that followed: “To all generations to come – remember that on the night of 4 May 1989, blood was spilt on Ouvea. Pardon – Haiömonu me ûsoköu.”

Much as people have reconciled since the armed conflict of the 1980s, you can’t understand the present without remembering the past. The 4 November referendum is the culmination of a twenty year transition under the Noumea Accord, an agreement signed by the French State, the independence movement Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS) and anti-independence politicians led by Jacques Lafleur.

The date chosen for the signing of the Noumea Accord, 5 May 1998, was no accident. It honoured the tragic event from a decade before – the 1988 Ouvea massacre.

In 1987, in the midst of the French army’s militarisation of New Caledonia, the FLNKS boycotted a referendum organised by the French State, which purported to determine the future of the country. Despite an overwhelming ‘Yes’ vote to stay with France, the referendum was meaningless without the participation of the colonised Kanak people.

The following year, the FLNKS leadership call for a boycott of the 1988 French Presidential elections, which saw conservative Prime Minister Jacques Chirac challenge the incumbent Socialist Party President Francois Mitterrand.

As part of the FLNKS boycott protests, a local group of Kanak independence activists led by Alphonse Dianou attempted to raise the flag of Kanaky over the police station at Fayaoue on 22 April 1988. In the subsequent melée, three gendarmes were killed and another mortally wounded. Twenty-seven others were taken hostage and hidden in caves in the north of the island, near the Kanak villages of Gossanah and Takedji.

The Ouvea crisis led to a major military mobilisation on the island, with the torture and maltreatment of villagers by French troops trying to find the location of the hostages.

The assault on the caves to free the captured police co-incided with a final (and unsuccessful) attempt by Prime Minister Chirac to glean votes between the two rounds of the Presidential elections. On 5 May 1988, the Chirac government abandoned negotiations and launched a military attack, with elite police and an army commando unit storming the cave. Nineteen Kanak activists were killed, with at least three executed after surrendering. Their leader Alphonse Dianou was shot in his knee during capture, and left to die.

The Ouvea tragedy made all parties step back from the brink and incoming Prime Minister Michel Rocard proposed negotiations. The subsequent Matignon and Oudinot Accords, sealed by a handshake between FLNKS leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou and anti-independence leader Jacques Lafleur, included a provision for amnesty for crimes committed before August 1988.

The legacy of grief and division after the Ouvea massacre contributed to the assassination of the Kanak leaders Jean-Marie Tjibaou and Yeiwene Yeiwene the following year. The two FLNKS leaders came to the island on 4 May 1989 to mark la levée du deuil, the end of a year-long period of mourning for the 19. At the ceremony, Tjibaou and Yeiwene were shot and killed by Djubelli Wea, an independence leader from Gossanah, who was immediately gunned down by Tjibaou’s bodyguard Daniel Fisdiepas.

It took a decade and a half to reconcile the families, clans and supporters of these dead, in a process led by customary chiefs, priests and pastors from the Protestant and Catholic churches. This cultural process of reconciliation and pardon has been vital in sealing a breach that could not be healed by judicial mechanisms.

Snubbing the President

On 5 May this year, President Emmanuel Macron travelled to the island of Ouvea. For the first time since the crisis of May 1988, a French President wanted to pay homage at the memorial to the 19 Kanaks killed by the elite special forces of the French army.

Meeting at his home in the Kanak tribe of Gossanah, Djubelli’s brother Maki Wea told me there was local opposition to Macron’s visit. Because of this, the French President left Ouvea without placing a wreath on the memorial to the 19 at Hwadrilla.

“They announced Macron’s arrival here without contacting the customary chiefs on the island, without contacting the families of the victims,” Wea said. “The FLNKS announced it in the media, but the people of Gossanah were surprised and we raised our finger to all the people over there. It was the first time in thirty years that we, the people of Gossanah, have not placed our flowers on the graves of the 19 on the anniversary. The High Commissioner even lobbied us over Macron’s visit. But we didn’t cede ground – we’re not like the people of the FLNKS who give in.”

Wea continues to advocate for IKS (Kanak Socialist Independence), the guiding slogan of the 1980s. Since July, he has been speaking out in public, calling for non-participation in this year’s referendum, as a member of the Parti Travailliste (PT) but also as “a child of Gossanah.”

Wea said: “Today, I can’t just act like an old man, working in the gardens, without saying something, because I think of the next generations, the sons of my sons and their sons after them. For they will ask: ‘Papa, what did you do when the French State and the local Right-wing parties and the leaders of the FLNKS moved away from the objective for which so many have sacrificed their lives – the goal of Indépendance Kanak et Socialiste?’”

He criticised those independence groups on Ouvea who campaign for a ‘Yes’ vote: “There are plenty of fine speeches out there: ‘Vote Yes, to remember those who died for independence.’ But we say no, this referendum is just neo-colonialism.”

“The Kanak people will end up as just another ‘community’, like the Wallisian community, the Vietnamese community, the Tahitians and others,” he added. “I don’t want that. When you talk about a referendum on self-determination, it should be the colonised people alone who place their paper in the ballot box.”

Getting out the vote

Hitchhiking up the 46 kilometre-long road that runs up the spine of the island, a young man stopped to offer a lift. We talked fishing and Australia and the weather and then drifted on to politics.

“I’m part of the generation who grew up after les évènements,” he told me. “So thinking about independence is different for me compared to my parents. We look differently at the referendum and I have questions about what it means.”

So will you vote No or stay at home on 4 November? “Oh no, I’m voting Yes, for independence. But we have to build this independence. We have to be involved to make it happen.”

Some people may go fishing on 4 November, but Wea’s call for non-participation is not accepted by most independence supporters on the island.

Activists from the largest independence parties Union Calédonienne (UC) and the Parti de Libération Kanak (Palika) have been out for weeks, seeking to mobilise people to turn out on the day. At the last provincial elections in 2014, only 65.2 per cent of voters on Ouvea went to vote, so the FLNKS is seeking to boost numbers, organising a number of community meetings to explain the significance of this year’s decision.

On a quiet night, I join a small team of activists at the tribe of Ouloup, near Ouvea’s airstrip. At a local community hall, 25 people gather to hear a presentation about the referendum, followed by discussion on reasons to vote (and to vote ‘Yes’).

The FLNKS has produced a short film, highlighting the economic and political milestones achieved by the independence movement since the mid-1970s (such as the 51 per cent local control of the Koniambo nickel smelter in the Northern Province, an unprecedented example of engagement with a transnational resource corporation in Melanesia).

Then there’s a PowerPoint, setting out the FLNKS vision of a sovereign Kanaky-New Caledonia, with the current Congress transformed into a National Assembly and an elected President replacing the French High Commissioner. There’s also a presentation on public finances and budgetary options for an independent state, attempting to calm fears that a Yes vote will lead to Paris turning off the financial taps.

And then there are questions and sharp comment, with a wide-ranging discussion over what independence might mean. Much of the discussion is in the local languages of Iaai and Fagauvea, leaving your correspondent adrift, but the tone of one woman’s voice suggest the FLNKS activists have some questions to answer about who will pay for her pension.

Ouvea’s deputy mayor, Robert Ismael, talks of the potential to give greater capacity to the local municipal council, if the Article 27 powers are transferred from Paris to Noumea (currently, New Caledonia’s provincial assemblies and local Congress come under the authority of the Government of New Caledonia, but the communs or municipal councils are still controlled and financed as French State institutions).

Ismael also cites the possibility to extend development partnerships with Australia, New Zealand and neighbouring Melanesian countries, such as the municipality’s current contacts with health authorities from Vanuatu: “We need to decolonise our heads and be proud like Vanuatu.”

With just weeks to go before 4 November, time is short to mobilise Ouvea’s 4,351 registered voters – some on the island and some planning to use “delocalised” voting booths in the capital Noumea. Local activists plan a major festival on the island for 26 October to promote a Yes vote, and will then join a major national rally organised by the FLNKS, to be held at Ko We Kara on 30 October.


Source (Islands Business)

Bougainville President John Momis … need to be united. Image: Ramumine

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

The people of Bougainville should present a unified front at the dawn of the referendum to secure a viable option of self-determination, says Autonomous Bougainville Government President Dr John Momis.

If Bougainville can secure more than 90 percent of the popular vote next year, it would have the bargaining power to negotiate with the Port Moresby national government, he added, reports The National.

“After the referendum vote, we will still have to negotiate with the national government before the referendum result is ratified by parliament,” Dr Momis said.

“Securing a majority vote on one option of the referendum question secures support from the international community and it proves to the national government that this is what our people have chosen as the new path for our future.

“Apart from presenting a unified front, it is imperative that we implement the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

“It does not matter if the government is failing to honour the peace agreement, we must continue to strive to implement it so that when it comes to the ratification of the outcome of the referendum, we can proudly say that we implemented it in its entirety.”

Dr Momis said it was the moral and legal obligation of the Bougainville government to honour the peace agreement despite capacity constraints which had hampered the full implementation of the autonomous arrangements on Bougainville.

He urged factions who have been causing problems for the government to end their dissension.

“We must realise that we stand on the threshold of a definitive period in our history yet we continue to be diametrically opposed to the government and the rule of law,” Dr Momis added.


Source (The National.)

ADB Executive Director and Team Leader for the ADB Board visit, In-chang Song and ADB Executive Director(Host), Tony McDonald disembarking off their flight.
AN eight member team from the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Board of Directors are in the country for a five days visit to discuss ADB’s continued support to the country’s development.

Members of the team arrived in the country last Sunday and will be engaged in their official program in the country as of today until Friday.

The Board members comprised of Executive Directors (EDs) and Alternate Executive Directors (AEDs), Team Leader In-chang Song, Tony McDonald (Host ED), Syurkani Ishak Kasim, Shahid Mahmood, Philip Rose, Kris Panday, Mahbub Ahmed and Enrique Galan.

During the visit they will meet the country’s Prime Minister Rick Hou, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Treasury and ADB Governor Manasseh Sogavare and other senior government officials and development partners to discuss ADB’s work program in the country.

ADB has a broad range of projects in infrastructure, public financial management, private sector development, and renewable energy in Solomon Islands.

During the visit the ADB Board group will share with government and other stakeholders details of ADB’s emerging Strategy 2030 and discuss how ADB is looking towards improving their modalities of knowledge sharing and the delivery of financial products.

Potential for flexibility in ADB’s procurement and safeguards procedures will be considered.

The visit program will include site visits to ADB supported energy, urban and infrastructure projects and the Board members will witness a grant signing ceremony for the ADB-supported Solomon Islands Transport Sector Project Development Facility.

The group will also explore new opportunities for ADB to support Solomon Islands.

The ADB Board members will interact with project beneficiaries, meet with civil society groups, private sector representatives and staff at ADB’s Solomon Islands Extended Mission (EMSOL).


Source: Solomon Star

Israel seek Vanuatu’s unwavering position to recognise Jerusalem as capital
Prime Minister Charlot Salwai, his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu (r) and their respective spouses — Mrs. Justine Salwai and Mrs. Sara Netanyahu
Prime Minister (PM) Charlot Salwai led a high-level delegation to Israel from the 14th to the 19th of October, 2018.

The delegates comprised Matai Seremaiah, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, and Biosecurity, Acting Director Generals of Agriculture, Foreign Affairs, and Prime Minister’s Office, Director of Foreign Affairs and the PM’s First Political Advisor.

The official visit to Israel was in response to an invitation by the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, to Prime minister Salwai to meet with him in Israel as part of strengthening development cooperation and bilateral relation between the two countries.

As a way of background, Vanuatu established diplomatic relations with the State of Israel on 16 December 1993 to promote mutual understanding and friendly relations in all political, economic, social, humanitarian, cultural and religious spheres.

Since then, Vanuatu has witnessed a gradual increase in Israel’s assistance over the years in the areas of economic cooperation, Agriculture, Climate Change and Renewable Energy, Marine and Fisheries, Education, Health and Culture, Faith and Public Diplomacy, whichhas continued to make the difference for the average ni-Vanuatu.

On the other hand, the state of Israel is a robust parliamentary democracy and there is a lot that Vanuatu could gain from this bilateral relationship. In the last five years, the Israel economy has grown steadily, and continuing strong foreign investment, tax revenue, and private consumption levels have helped the economy recover quickly from shocks such as the conflict with Hizballah in 2006.

Recent forecasts estimate that the Israeli economy will grow between 2.8 and 3.0 per cent year-on-year in the next two years (2016, 2017). GDP growth was 2.5 per cent in 2015. This growth is partly due tohigh-tech exports of which ICT is one of the key industries that drive its economy in addition to oil and gas.

Indeed, Israel is renowned for its aquaculture and mariculture, which enable a 25 percent increase in domestic breeding in the final decade of the 20th century. This includes: fish growing in artificial ponds, including tilapia, mullet, carp, trout, bass and silver carp, mainly in the northern part of the country; salt water fish, including bass and sea-bream, raised in floating cages in the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Eilat; and fresh-water fishing in Lake Kinneret.

The increased agricultural production, despite severe water and land limitation, was the outcome of collaboration and integrated approach between researchers, extension workers, farmers and agriculture-related services and industries. Continuous, application-oriented research and development (R&D) has been carried out in the country since the beginning of the last century. The agricultural sector today is based almost entirely on science-linked technology, with government agencies, academic institutions, industry and cooperative bodies working together to seek solutions and meet new challenges.

In terms of Agriculture, Agricultural projects and research collaboration constitute about half of Israel’s international cooperation programs. Emphasis is placed on training courses in agricultural subjects, with some 1,400 participants from over 80 countries attending specialized courses in Israel every year, and thousands of trainees receiving on-the-spot training in their own countries. Since 1958, thousands of Israeli agricultural experts have been sent abroad on long- and short-term assignments.

Indeed, Israel is the number 1 in the world today in waste water management, desalination and water recycling.Ithas more start-ups per capita than any other nation when it comes to Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Development. It is an achievement which is the result of close collaboration between business and government, and a culture that rewards risk-taking, embraces innovation and entrepreneurship and encourages imagination. Sectors include: Small and Medium Enterprises; Innovative Entrepreneurship – from an idea to starting a business; Support Systems for Entrepreneurs; the Use of ICTs in Support Systems to Advance Microenterprises.

Whilst in Israel Prime Minister Salwai and his delegation visited Volcani Agriculture Institute, a prime and leading institution in agricultural research, innovation and practical application. As part of the practical demonstration the delegation visited an innovated agricultural farm called green2000 of which the delegation had an opportunity to brief on innovated method for food security and increased production.

At the bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister Salwai reaffirmed Vanuatu’s appreciation of the relationship that Vanuatu has with the state of Israel and commented that Vanuatu– Israel relations has a potential to expand and deepen into the future. He also acknowledged that Vanuatu strategic partnership with Israel has brought many benefits and is far from exhausting its potential.

The official state visit to Israel is to reinforce Vanuatu commitment to this strategic partnership relations and also an opportunity to explore how Vanuatu could benefit from the shared experiences of Israel in the areas of water management, purification, desalination and, innovated method for increasing production quantity and quality.

On the development front, Prime Minister discussed with his counterpart opportunity to broaden and deepen the existing mutual development cooperation between the two countries to cover the following areas:

  • Technical assistance in the provision of clean water (water purification, desalination and recycling) through the Department of Water Resources. Access to clean water is a major problem around Vanuatu and access to such expertise will greatly improve community welfare in Vanuatu.
  • Assistance in providing educational training schemes (scholarships) to Vanuatu citizens especially those who are interested in pursuing further studies in areas of Aquaculture, Information Technology, Farming Technology, Irrigation Technology and Green Farming and Energy techniques.
  • Seek support of Israel for Vanuatu’s post 2020 after the LDC Graduation, like establishing an enabling environment to allow possible Israel Investment in Vanuatu

PM Salwai is also exploring opportunity for expanding technical cooperation assistance with the State of Israel to cover national security, particularly intelligence training amidst growing global security challenges that poses threat to Smaller Island States like Vanuatu.

In response, Prime MinisterNetanyahu reaffirmed its country’s commitment to this strategic partnership and agreed for Israel to provide early interventions in water and agriculture sector. The government of Israel will mobilise its experts in the areas of water and agriculture to undertake a feasibility study to determine a need and understand how this assistance can be framed to suit Vanuatu’s context.

The Israel government is also assured Vanuatu government to make twenty (20) scholarship available to ni-Vanuatu each year in the fields of agriculture. The scholarship is fully funded except the airfares.

On the political front, Israel acknowledged support of Vanuatu over the years at the international development arena and in particular the Vanuatu’s support for the State of Israel to become member of the Asian Development Bank. Furthermore, Israel seek Vanuatu’s unwavering position and consensus to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In response, Prime Minister Salwai, assured his counterpart that he will follow up with his Council of Ministers and will communicate Vanuatu’s position on Jerusalem as capital of Israel without further delay.

PM Salwai further commented that Vanuatu’s constitution recognised Christianity and hence as a Christian country there is evidence beyond doubt that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Indeed, this is the belief of all Christians around the world.

The state of Israel was established in 14 May 1948 and has the city of Tel Aviv as its economic and technological centre while its seat of government and proclaimed capital is Jerusalem although the state sovereignty over Jerusalem is partially recognised.

In 1989, the Vanuatu government moved to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) aligning itself with the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) principle on decolonisation and the right to self — determination.

It was not until 1993 that the country decided to recognise the state of Israel due to Vanuatu’s strong connection with Christianity which has its roots in Israel. This lead to Vanuatu abstaining from major UN resolutions on the Israel Palestine conflict which prime multilateral solution over bilateral negotiations. The Vanuatu government reiterate its preference for bilateral negotiations between Israel and Palestine over multilateral diplomacy as a mean to achieve a peaceful solution to this long-standing issue.

Despite recognition of the Palestine Liberation Movement Vanuatu chose to abstain from voting on the UN General Assembly resolution that upgraded the status of Palestine as a Non-Observer state to the UN and those resolutions that condemn the Israel settlement of the Occupied Palestine Territories.

The recent one being the recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel in a move by the Arab league of countries to counter the move by US to recognise Jerusalem as the Jewish state capital.

By abstaining to vote on the UN resolution by the Arab League of countries to reject the recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel Vanuatu wants to underscore the importance Jerusalem represents for Christian faith and other faiths. Vanuatu is also of the view that the resolution is one sided and does not advance the peace process that UN aspires.

In the meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Prime Minister Salwai reaffirmed Vanuatu commitment to work with Israel to find a peaceful solution to the Israel Palestine conflict and to review Vanuatu’s stand on the recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel.

The two leaders noted that existing Memorandum of Understanding on development cooperation between the two countries expired in 2017 and agreed for the officials of the two countries to renew it and take into consideration the outcome of this bilateral talk.


Source: (Daily Post Vanuatu)