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Saturday, October 31, 1998 Published at 16:03 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Time flies in Fiji

Fiji's islanders will be first past the post

The Fiji government has introduced Daylight Saving Time for the first time, boosting its claim to be the first place to see in the new millennium.

South Pacific Islanders changed their clocks at midnight local time (1200 GMT) on Saturday as the new bill took effect. For just four months a year, they will be one hour ahead of neighbouring islands.

The Fijiian government says the main reasons for the time change is to improve productivity and reduce road accidents.

Tourism boost

But BBC correspondent Catherine Adams says the move is also intended to boost Fiji's ability to attract tourists to witness the dawning of the new millennium.

Reporting from the capital, Suva, she says Fiji is competing with several other places, including Tonga and Siberia in Russia, to pip the millennium post.

The closest rival, Pitt Island off New Zealand, is currently only 45 minutes ahead.

But the Fiji Islands' Millennium Commission says it has a more valid claim regardless of the government's decision to bring time forward by one hour so that it will be the first to see the dawn.

According to the commission, what matters is that the 180 degrees meridian passes through three of Fiji's three hundred or so islands.

The only other region crossed by the meridian is Siberia.

Towards 2000

A host of celebrations are being planned in Fiji, including the building of a millennium monument and a series of walls along the meridian where people can plant time capsules.

Visitors are also expected to flock to the diving festival, where they can plunge into the ocean just before midnight to emerge out of the water in a new century.

The tourism ministry says every hotel on the three meridian islands is already fully booked and more plans for accommodation have to be made.

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