French Prime Minister Raymond Barre returned in triumph on Friday (3 November) to his birthplace, St.
French Prime Minister Raymond Barre returned in triumph on Friday (3 November) to his birthplace, St. Denis, capital of La Reunion, the tiny French overseas department island in the Indian Ocean. This official visit was one of the rare return journeys that Monsieur Barre had made since he left for Paris in 1945.
SYNOPSIS: Reunion, which has also been called Bourbon, has belonged to France since 1642, and been classified as an overseas department since 1946. With an area of just over two and a half thousand square kilometres (968.5 square miles), the oyster-shaped island is about eight hundred kilometres (569 miles) north-east of Madagascar. Anti-Barre slogans, calling for independence, showed there was not an unqualified welcome for this native son.
However, some walls had posters proclaiming pride in the achievements of the man President Giscard d'Estaing made Prime Minister two years ago.
With its population of ninety thousand, St. Denis is almost twice the size of the island's second-largest city. It is the administrative centre of a largely agricultural economy, whose chief products are sugar, rum, maize, vanilla, essences and tobacco. Output on this gala Friday must have been below par as thousands gathered at the airport, including clusters of young girls in national costume.
With the Prime Minister's jet on the ground, the big moment was at hand. Monsieur Barre emerged into bright sunshine, which he first saw under these skies on April the 17th, 1924. He was looking forward to reunion with his grand-mother, mother, two sisters and other members of his family. But first, members of the island's prefecture welcomed him.
A guard of honour and handshakes with war veterans compensated for his having postponed a visit home last year because of international duties. He was scheduled to talk with members of parliament, including party leaders, on such problems as high unemployment among young people in the island's half million population.