28 Mar 2005

The blockade of French Polynesia's main port ends

10:32 am on 28 March 2005

The blockade of French Polynesia's main port has ended after the government gave in to the demands of about 300 members of the presidential intervention group, the GIP.

The government has agreed to drop Robert Maker as the new head of the

GIP in a deal that has seen the immediate lifting of the three-day blockade of the port of Papeete.

The agreement, signed by President Oscar Temaru, provides the GIP with an interim adminstrator, Marcel Ahini, for three months.

The blockade, which cut all fuel supplies to Tahiti, followed Mr Temaru's televised speech last week in which he vowed not to give in to blackmail by the GIP and to keep Mr Maker as head of the force.

Mr Temaru had also announced a restructuring of the 1,200-strong force and said the former GIP leaders were to face legal action for unspecified wrongdoing.

Before accepting the GIP demand, Mr Temaru asked the French authorities to guarantee access to the port but his request for intervention was ignored.

The GIP was set up as a disaster assistance team in the 1990's but has also included an intelligence unit which has been implicated in the disappearance of a journalist more than seven years ago.

The claim of alleged criminality has angered some GIP members and contributed to the opposition to Mr Maker who will remain Mr Temaru's special advisor.