Tuvalu votes to keep the Union flag flying in South Pacific

Suva - After a two-year absence, the Union emblem once again flies as part of Tuvalu's national flag, showing that the sun has not quite set on this tiny corner of the former British Empire.

Tuvalu's Prime Minister, Bikenibeau Paeniu, said yesterday that the Union device was restored to the flag by a 7-5 vote in parliament last week.

Former prime minister Kamuta Laatasi, who spearheaded the removal of the Union emblem from the Pacific nation's flag in 1995, bitterly opposed the turnaround. "He was very anti," Mr Paeniu said. "He believed the flag should not change. He said we're reinstating the Union Jack, but really, we are not. We are reinstating the independence flag basically as a tribute to the fathers of our nation who chose that flag in consultation with the people."

The restoration of the Union flag replaces a gaily coloured banner favoured by the Laatasi government and ends 20 months of political turmoil in the lives of Tuvalu's 9,000 Polynesian residents.

Mr Paeniu had parliament restore the design Tuvalu adopted when it gained independence from Britain in 1978 - a yellow background with the Union flag in the top lefthand corner and nine stars representing the nation's nine atolls.

In October 1995, Mr Laatasi had substituted a complex red, blue, white and yellow striped and starred flag as a step toward becoming a republic, and dropped Britain's Queen as head of state. The new flag was controversial because he had not consulted public opinion. One island, Niutao, cut it down the first time it was raised there.

Mr Paeniu, a 41-year-old economist who had lost the prime ministership to Mr Laatasi in an election three years earlier, ousted the latter last December on a 7-5 vote of no confidence in Parliament. Now the flag has been restored, and Mr Laatasi's plan for a republic has been shelved.

"Tuvalu is too young to go into all this movement, when considering the fact that Australia has been in existence for over 200 years and the republic issue is still being debated there. And we're not even 20 years old," Mr Paeniu said.

Mr Laatasi was also partly undercut by local uproar over a deal his government made to let the Asia Pacific Telecommunication company lease Tuvalu's area code to carry toll calls. This earned more than pounds 420,000 (pounds 263,000) a year for a country with a budget of less than $4m.

Then the government discovered that international telephone sex calls were being routed through Tuvalu's exchange, outraging the powerful Ecclesiastical Church.

A group of nine coral islands, Tuvalu became an independent constitutional monarchy, with Britain's reigning monarch as its head, on 1 October 1978. The capital, Funafuti, which is also the main island, is about 680 miles north of Fiji's capital, Suva.

Tuvalu's latest move means six of the 16-nation South Pacific Forum still show the Union flag. The others are Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Niue and the Cook Islands.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on