TUVALU: Tiny Pacific state in crisis

By MICHAEL FIELD for stuff.co.nz
LATEST: A tiny South Pacific nation, Tuvalu, has resorted to emergency rule and its leadership under armed guard, sources on the capital atoll of Funafuti say. The third smallest state on earth - after the Vatican and Nauru - has a population of just 10,400. Sources say the country's solitary navy boat, Te Mataila, is now guarding the shoreline of the side-by-side residences of the Governor General Iakoba Itaeli and Prime Minister Willy Telavi. A state of emergency has been declared and any gathering of 10 or more people prohibited. There has been a march on Funafuti but so far there has been no violence, the source says.
Tensions are high however as people from the Nukufetau island community have demanded one of their members of parliament, Lotoala Metia, resign. There has been a continuing power struggle in the 15 seat Parliament. Last year, a large part of the New Zealand Defence Forces took part in a major exercise on Funafuti, designed to prepare the nation for tsunamis and other civil disasters. The island nation is 1100km north of Fiji and has drawn the attention of environmentalists who fear it will disappear due to global warming. Tuvalu makes much of its money from fishing and the sale of its internet domain suffix, dot TV.
© 2010 Fairfax New Zealand Limited

Country Profile BBC:

Tuvalu is a group of nine tiny islands in the South Pacific which won independence from the United Kingdom in 1978. Five of the islands are coral atolls, the other four consist of land rising from the sea bed.
All are low-lying, with no point on Tuvalu being higher than 4.5 metres above sea level. Local politicians have campaigned against global warming, arguing that climate change could see the islands swamped by rising sea levels.
Life on the islands is simple and often harsh. There are no streams or rivers, so the collection of rain is essential.
Coconut palms cover most of the islands, and copra - dried coconut kernel - is practically the only export commodity. Increasing salination of the soil threatens traditional subsistence farming.
Tuvalu depends on foreign aid, the income from the sale of tuna fishing licences and the interest from a trust fund set up in 1987. The sale of postage stamps also brings in revenues.
It is one of a handful of countries to have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which has funded the construction of Tuvalu's largest building - a three-storey administrative headquarters.
Tuvalu has shown ingenuity by exploiting another source of income. It has sold its internet suffix - .tv - to a Californian company for several million dollars a year in continuing revenue. The company sells the suffix on to television broadcasters.
Some of the money has been used to pave roads - which were formerly made of crushed coral - and to build schools.
Full name: Tuvalu
Population: 11,000 (UN, 2010)
Capital: Funafuti
Area: 26 sq km (10 sq miles)
Major language: Tuvaluan, English
Major religion: Christianity
Life expectancy: 62 years (men), 65 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 Tuvaluan dollar, or 1 Australian dollar = 100 cents
Main exports: Copra, handicrafts
GNI per capita: Estimated to be lower middle income: $996 to $3,945 (World Bank, 2009)
Internet domain: .tv
International dialling code: +688