PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
TUVALU’S PARLIAMENT DISSOLVES AHEAD OF GENERAL ELECTIONS
By Michael J. Field
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (December 24, 1997 Agence France-Presse)--- Tuvalu, which fears for its survival in the face of global warming and sea-level rises, is heading into a general election following the dissolving of its 12-seat Parliament, Prime Minister Bikenibeu Paeniu told Agence France-Presse this week.
An election, following the scheduled dissolving of Parliament, will be held in March
.Paeniu, who has previously described his country as "the world's first victim of climate change," has recently been strongly critical of Australian Prime Minister John Howard and New Zealand Prime Minister Jenny Shipley.
Howard had refused to back a South Pacific Forum call for tough action at the recently finished Kyoto summit while Shipley offended him by declining to see him when he was recently in New Zealand.
Tuvalu's 10,200 people live on nine low lying atolls north-west of Fiji.Paeniu said global rising and the way Tuvalu stands up for itself on the world stage were domestic issues in the forthcoming election. But he rejected suggestions that his strong statements were creating alarm over the future of Tuvalu itself.
"It is really normal living here in Tuvalu," he said."There is no fear at all. We have a faith in God and God will let us continue to live in our homeland." He said he was "not totally happy" with the outcome of Kyoto which, he said, would let Australia continue its emissions of greenhouse gases.Paeniu's current term of Prime Minister began a year ago, when he won a vote of no confidence against then Prime Minister Kamuta Latasi who lost office.
It has been a controversial year for Paeniu, with sex telephone lines and the country's flag winning headlines along with green house gases. Paeniu, early this year, discovered 10 percent of his national budget came from sex line calls.Tuvalu's 688 area code appeared in magazines in Britain, the US and Japan and offered a variety of telephone sex services. None of the calls were actually answered in Tuvalu but the country made money on the area code itself. Tuvalu's national motto, "Tuvalu for God," made it difficult to keep the service operating, and now Paeniu has slowly cut it back.
Latasi, while in office, had the Union Jack taken off the Tuvalu flag, claiming former colonial master Britain did not care for the country. Paeniu put the Union Jack back onto the flag." Its the flag our people wanted in the first place. The new flag was never taken to the people for their views. This is the respect for the fathers of our nation. The flag is our symbol, a symbol of our unity.Tuvalu, despite its size and isolation, has a solid economy based on skillful use of its aid.During the past decade, Tuvalu worked with Australia, Great Britain, Japan, and New Zealand to establish a well-capitalized, well-managed trust fund, revenues from which are used to meet both current and long-term development needs.
Tuvalu’s trust fund is self-perpetuating and allows Tuvalu to set its own development priorities.
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