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Tokelau calls for return of island

Published: 9:00PM Wednesday February 15, 2006 Source: One News

As Tokelau awaits the results of a vote for independence, New Zealand's last colony also wants America to return an island that used to be part of the world's tiniest territory.

Olohega, otherwise known as Swains Island, is historically part of the Tokelau group but in 1980 New Zealand gave it to the United States.

Composer Opetaia Foa'i says any country would feel an injustice to have an island taken from them. "It doesn't matter when, and to have it returned it would correct that."

Foa'i heads Te Vaka, a band that was asked by Tokelau's leaders to compose a song about claiming Olohega Island back.

The issue has resurfaced as Tokelau votes on its future.

In Tokelau's draft constitution Olohega is included in the definition of the island group. The New Zealand government requested that it not be but the Tokelauans opted to put it in.

The American embassy has referred the matter to Washington but denies the Tokelauans are making a claim on Swains Island in the draft constitution.

The New Zealand government agrees but despite that it is a hot topic with Tokelauans.

"Apart from being traditionally Tokelauan it would really help the population - 1,600 people right now on four square miles. It is a little bit overcrowded, we could do with another island," says Foa'i.

Tokelauans are determined to make their voices heard and get their island back.