18 Jun 2006

Illegal port blockade in French Polynesia lifted

9:46 am on 18 June 2006

An illegal blockade of the only bridge to French Polynesia's main port on the island of Tahiti has been lifted as employers threatened to close businesses and lay off staff from Monday in protest at the interruptions.

The blockade was lifted after three days following talks with the French high commission which is reponsible for ensuring the freedom of movement.

The action was led by the former head of the GIP intervention force, Rere Puputauki, who is an associate of the former president, Gaston Flosse, in a protest at work arrangements in the port area.

The minister in charge of the port described the blockade as a rebellion - the latest of a series of such protests since last year's election defeat of Mr Flosse and Mr Puputauki's replacement as GIP boss.

The GIP has been dissolved, but Mr Puputauki has been justifying his moves, saying the French state never intervened in 2004 when offices were occupied by those who are now in government.

The territory's president, Oscar Temaru, had accused the French state of negligence in allowing the port to be shut down illegally.

The blockade immediately hit economic activity and prompted businesss leaders to stage their first ever street protest against such interruptions.

Meanwhile, disgruntled fishermen whose action had stopped the movement of ships in the port of Papeete have been given a new administrative status to be represented in key organisations.

Last week, the fishermen dumped truckloads of rotten fish outside the presidetial palace and the territorial assembly to draw attention to their economic plight.