23 Sep 2005

Roadblocks in Wallis in bid to thwart coronation of new King

9:24 am on 23 September 2005

Supporters of the King of Wallis have set up roadblocks in the French territory, in an effort to thwart the coronation of a new monarch.

Local media report that six roadblocks have cut off the Hihifo area, where the pro-reform Wallisians intend to install their new King on Sunday.

The territory's administrator, Xavier de Furst, says schools and public services have been closed for security reasons because some people at the roadblocks are armed.

Roads have been barred by trucks, cars and felled coconut trees.

French police in New Caledonia have sent riot squad reinforcements to Wallis.

Since May, different royal factions in Wallis have been arguing over whether the 86-year-old King, the Lavelua Tomasi Kulimoetoke, should stay on, after he challenged French authorities.

About 500 supporters of the King yesterday staged a march in the streets of New Caledonia's capital Noumea.

They brandished banners that said 'one God, one King, one people'.

They handed over a petition to the French High Commission, saying the Lavelua was the only King left in the French Republic and that he was, as they put it, the guardian of Wallis's culture and tradition.