11 Mar 2013

Vanuatu celebrates Matthew and Hunter anniversary

8:18 pm on 11 March 2013

Vanuatu has celebrated the thirty year-anniversary of hoisting the Vanuatu Flag on the Matthew and Hunter Islands in 1983.

The two islands are considered by Vanuatu as part of Tafea Province in the country's south and under traditional relationships, the indigenous Kanak people of New Caledonia have links to the islands.

However the islands have also been claimed by France which has taken the matter to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in New York.

At a large ceremony at the weekend in Port Vila, Vanuatu's President Iolu Johnson Abbil awarded medals to members of the first Vanuatu expedition following the gaining of independence in 1980 to raise the country's flag on Matthew and Hunter.

The expedition was initially prevented from landing at Matthew island by a French warship in 1983 in an incident which set the tone for a dispute between the countries over the two islands which has never been fully resolved.