Letter: Millennial dawn

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The Independent Online
Sir: The International Date Line was established by the International Meridian Conference of 1884. At that time the people of Kiribati had had limited contact with the outside world and operated to an entirely different system of time from the 24-hour clock. European time was introduced when we were declared to be the British protectorate of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands in 1892.

When Kiribati again became independent in 1979, we inherited a situation where different parts of the country were operating in different days. The action of President Tito's government to remove that nonsense was motivated by the desire to unify our country and its administration. We resent the implication that this move was a cynical bid for tourist money ("South Sea islands fight for first place in millennial dawn", 28 November).

In fact, Caroline Island is not inhabited, and has no roads, airports, wharves, nor even much fresh water. While we shall welcome those who choose to celebrate the millennium dawn there, it will be very much a case of "bring your own infrastructure" - including sea transport to get there.

Our own people's celebration of the new millennium will take place on Kiritimati (Christmas Island), which does have suitable infrastructure. President Tito has invited anyone who wishes to celebrate with us; but as there are fewer than 100 hotel rooms, our visitors must be prepared to accept the traditional hospitality of the I Kiribati Maneaba (meeting house), rather than that of a tourist trap. I certainly hope to celebrate the millennium dawn there, some eighty minutes in advance of those on Mount Hapeka.

MICHAEL WALSH

Honorary Consul, Republic of Kiribati

Llanddewi Rhydderch, Monmouthshire

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