Tuvalu News

Tuvalu may ditch the Queen and declare a republic

By Paul Chapman
May 6, 2004

The tiny Pacific nation of Tuvalu, formerly part of the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, announced yesterday that it is considering removing the Queen as head of state and becoming a republic.

Saufatu Sopo'aga, the prime minister, said opinions would be canvassed among the population of 11,000 to gauge popular support for a referendum on the issue.

"We are finding out whether the people of Tuvalu want to do that, and whether they understand the implications," he said. He added that he personally thought a referendum was "premature" and that there were "just a few politicians pushing this".

Tuvalu, which lies between Australia and Hawaii, became independent in 1978, and has since had an ambivalent relationship with London.

The Union flag emblem was stripped from the corner of the national ensign in 1996 by Kamuta Laatasi, the then prime minister, who called for a republic, complaining that Britain did not care about the island group.

Two years later it was reinstated. The islanders have constantly struggled to raise their standard of living above a subsistence existence.

Much of Tuvalu's total land area of 10 square miles, which at its highest is a mere 15ft above sea level, appears to be sinking as a result of global warming. The Prime Minister's office is in a two-bedroom house, and the population survives on fish caught each day.
Copyright 2004 Agence France Presse www.afp.com

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