6 May 2005

Vanuatu PM to apologise to those displaced at independence

3:36 pm on 6 May 2005

Vanuatu's Prime minister is to make his first official trip to neighbouring New Caledonia in August to apologise to former residents deported after independence 25 years ago.

The Vanuatu Independent newspaper reports that the official apology from Ham Lini would be part of a more general trip aimed at further strengthening co-operation ties between New Caledonia and Vanuatu.

Mr Lini will be the first to make an apology at such a level, and on behalf of his late elder brother, Walter Lini, regarded in Vanuatu as the father of independence.

Before independence in 1980, anti-independence movements, mainly consisting of French settlers and French-speaking ni-Vanuatu, rallied against the move.

But the movement was quashed and several hundred families, from Santo, Malekula and Efate islands, sought refuge in New Caledonia.

Unofficial figures place the Vanuatu diaspora in New Caledonia at more than 10,000 individuals, some of them residing and working illegally.