Gaston Flosse's French Polynesia back on UN decolonisation list
Gaston Flosse's French Polynesia back on UN decolonisation list
May the 17th has been a momentous day for French Polynesia.
After being pulled off the UN decolonisation list by France 66 years ago, the territory was re-inscribed.
And Gaston Flosse, the politician with the largest number of corruption convictions under French watch, was elected president for the fifth time in 29 years.
Walter Zweifel reports:
EDOARD FRITCH: En consequence, je proclame Monsieur Gaston Flosse elu President...
That is Edouard Fritch, the assembly president announcing the result of the presidential election. Gaston Flosse, an assembly member for 51 years who will turn 82 next month, was chosen to the territory's top post. His return to power was predictable after the territorial election two weeks ago gave his Tahoeraa Huiraatira twice as many seats as the two opposition parties combined. And almost a decade out of the palace he had built for himself, Mr Flosse was overcome.
GASTON FLOSSE: ..tres, tres, tres simplement remercier, de nouveau, toutes les Polynesiennes et Polynesiens qui nous ont fait confiance...
The election day was overshadowed by news from New York breaking in Tahiti at dawn that the General Assembly had approved a resolution to re-inscribe the territory on the UN decolonisation list. This marked a crowning moment for his long-time political rival, Oscar Temaru, whose pro-independence campaign was met with its first tangible international success in the dying hours of his presidency. For Mr Flosse, the decision was unjustified, going in his address to the assembly while still a candidate for the presidency as far as labelling the General Assembly as a vehicle for dictatorship.
GASTON FLOSSE: Nous ne voulons pas de dictature chez nous!
But back to New York, to the UN debate and the resolution sponsored by Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Nauru, Timor Leste, Vanuatu and Samoa.
COLLIN BECK: It is for the non self-governing territory of French Polynesia to choose their future destiny in a just and fair process.
Presenting it was the Solomon Islands delegate, Collin Beck. The wording is the product of months of wrangling, but aspects of and its timing have been disapproved by France. Mr Beck pointed out that after the Second World War, and in the days of the nascent world body, France had lined up the decolonisation dogma but let its commitment lapse.
COLLIN BECK: The administrative power is required to provde information on French Polynesia. As stated above, the last report was received 66 years ago.
That means, there has been no report since 1947. The territory gradually changed its relationship with France, much of it tied to the French decision to use the South Pacific as a testing ground for nuclear weapons. This meant Paris excised Fangataufa and Moruroa to be used as test venues between 1966 and 1996, and although it promised to return the atolls once the tests were over, they remain French and are off-limits. Mr Flosse negotiated varying terms of autonomy, becoming also its first elected president in 1984 and getting Paris to agree in 2003 to enshrine his domain in the constitution as a so-called 'country within the republic'. All along, for the anti-nuclear movement and for the pro-independence advocates, the UN stood out as a possible platform to advance their aspirations. Their cause won traction after the Union For Democracy leader, Oscar Temaru, won the presidency in 2004 for the first time, with him eventually scraping together enough support in the assembly for a formal resolution to be produced.
In the last two years, his lobbying bore fruit, with small Pacific countries getting the re-inscription bid on the agenda. France resisted the process and before last year's French election, it managed to have the matter deferred. Collin Beck again.
COLLIN BECK: While there is no organic link between national elections, administrating power and the exercise of inalienable right of self-determination of a people of a territory, agreement was made in the interests of flexibility to postpone consideration at that time and with the agreement to leave open the relevant agenda for consideration at the beginning of 2013.
Again the issue was deferred, this time to accommodate French Polynesia's territorial election. In the sloganeering of the election campaign, decolonisation was described as being the same as independence. So for the Tahoeraa, its election success was equivalent to a vote against Mr Temaru's decolonisation bid. When the new assembly met for the first time on Friday, it controversially altered the day's agenda to pass a resolution asking for an immediate halt to the decolonisation debate in New York. The opposition walked out in protest, saying the process breached orders after which the Tahoeraa described its vote not as a resolution but a wish which was immediately sent off to New York. While France boycotted the UN sitting, Germany and the Netherlands disassociated themselves from the vote. And so did the delegate of the United States.
UNITED STATES DELEGATE: The people of French Polynesia, through their democratically elected representatives have made clear that they do not support this resoution. The newly elected government, which takes office today, has noticed the General Assembly that this resolution 'ignores our autonomy and the will of our people'.
And the British delegate has also opposed the UN consensus, saying the UN should not have to be briefed about French Polynesia's affairs.
BRITISH DELEGATE: On this particular resolution, the United Kingdom believes that it is not for the General Assembly to determine, in any particular case, that an obligation exists for a state to submit information under Article 73e of the United Nations Charter.
Gaston Flosse now says the vote is a non-event and as long as he is in charge there will be no UN flags flying on public buildings as suggested by the opposition's unsuccessful presidential candidate, Antony Geros. Mr Flosse has vowed to tackle poverty and although details are unclear, he says he will keep his promise to give money to the unemployed. He has a five-year term to enact his programme, but he could be out of office before the end of the year if he loses his appeal against a jail sentence for corruption he got this year.
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