Government of the Federated States of Micronesia

SPC Marks 50 Years in the Region

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (FSM INFORMATION SERVICE), February 19, 1997 - The South Pacific Commission (SPC) opened celebrations for its golden jubilee in Noumea, New Caledonia February 6, amidst color, pomp, and ceremony.

Several hundred people gathered at the Commission's grand headquarters at Anse Vata in Noumea to witness customary Kanak dances and ceremonies and listen to addresses by various dignitaries.

Opening the celebrations, SPC Director-General Dr. Bob Dun said: "Institutions only die when they fail to adapt to change, or when they decay through inertia and corruption. The SPC is very much alive and kicking - this event is also a celebration of SPC's next 50 years and beyond - a celebration of the continuing changing contribution that SPC will make to the lives of Pacific people."

"The role of SPC in island service, the need for such a cost-effective institution is something that will not go away."

"When the colonial fathers of the SPC signed it into being in Canberra in 1947, did they think it would last so long? Probably, but perhaps it did not cross their minds that its future would be as an island institution, controlled by island governments but yet still wisely supported by its former colonial powers."

Dun paid tribute to former SPC Secretary-General, Fiji's Dr. Macu Salato, for his definition of Pacific regionalism as "unity in diversity," saying: "We all treasure our differences, but in the Pacific we still need to live and work together as one. The soul and essence of an organization is nothing more than the sum of the lives of its people...the SPC is the Pacific in microcosm - a living slice of the islands of paradise."

Laurent Cayrel, Secretary-General of the Territory, representing the High Commissioner who is currently in France, said that the Matignon Accords provided for better integration of New Caledonia into its regional environment.

"The SPC is the ideal gateway for the territory, allowing representatives of regional countries and territories to visit Noumea and New Caledonian technicians to attend conferences and workshops organized by SPC," he said.

"The appointment of Jacques Iekawe to the position of Secretary-General in late 1992 had been considered a great honor by (New Caledonia's) territorial authorities. This appointment showed that the actions of New Caledonia, as well as its efforts to integrate itself into the region, was appreciated by member countries and territories. We are sorry that his death prevented him from accomplishing the task that had been assigned to him."

He recalled that the SPC headquarters has been in Noumea since 5 March 1949, first in the "Pentagon" building that housed American armed forces in World War II, and more recently in a fine new building funded by France, New Caledonia, and Australia.

The Australian Consul-General, Graeme Wilson, delivered most of his address in French, "out of respect for the bilingual nature of SPC, which I believe is one of the great strengths of the organization, especially in terms of promoting unity in diversity."

"The members and staff of the Commission," he said, "can be justifiably proud of their achievements in the last 50 years in carrying out the Commission's mandate to assist with the region's social and economic development."

"Australia is fully committed to the work of the Commission...enthusiastic and optimistic about the Commission's future."

Australia will be hosting the 37th South Pacific Conference in October in Canberra, where the Agreement establishing SPC was signed 50 years ago, and is looking forward to launching it on its second 50 years.

Following the speeches, Mme. Caroline Machoro, who is responsible for regional cooperation in New Caledonia's Northern Province, opened displays of SPC's work and of Island arts and crafts set up all round the grounds of SPC headquarters.

Earlier in the evening a special information session was held for New Caledonia's decision-makers. Members of the Territorial Congress, and Noumea Town Council and the Council of Chiefs heard SPC's Deputy Director-General, Lourdes Pangelinan, discuss SPC's achievements in New Caledonia and the region.

On Friday and Saturday, the SPC will hold public Open Days at its headquarters in Noumea and its offices in Suva, Fiji. An exciting program, featuring cultural entertainment and practical demonstrations of SPC's work, will be on show.

For further information on this release, please contact:

FSM Office of the President
Public Information: Press, Radio, Video
P.O Box 34
Palikir Station, Pohnpei, FM 96941
Tel.: (691) 320-2548/2092
Fax.: (691) 320-4356