Disagreement in French Polynesia over independence referendum
Disagreement in French Polynesia over terms and timing of independence referendum.
There is disagreement in French Polynesia over the terms and timing of a possible referendum on independence.
One side wants a vote to be organised by France right away, while the other is struggling to get French and the French Polynesian governments to understand their obligations towards the United Nations.
Paris has so far remained silent about the options, with a pro-independence politician in Tahiti, Richard Tuheiava, saying that this may be linked to the decolonisation process underway in New Caledonia. He spoke to Walter Zweifel.
RICHARD TUHEIAVA: There are some conflicts in the interpretation of what will be a genuine and fair and equitable referendum between Tahoeraa and us. France, of course, is not yet participating at the UN level, at the United Nations level, to the discussion.
WALTER ZWEIFEL: How is this case or your situation going to be advanced if you have a metropolitan power or administrative power like France which seems to be aloof, and you have an administration in Papeete which is right out hostile to any of these initiatives?
RT: Timing is of the essence first. And secondly we are organising an international and a regional strategy. We know what France has already accepted from New Caledonia. We know also what will represent the [Indistinct] and in the Pacific region towards France. So it's really a matter of how to deal between France's immobility as of today and also waiting for the best moment, locally speaking, here in Tahiti, to operate and to launch the process. But it's not yet on the agenda because we are still discussing the terms of that referendum.
WZ: Speaking of time and referendum, the Tahoeraa has put through a resolution in the assembly in May asking for France to organise a referendum as soon as possible. Now, France has not responded to that in any way that seems to suggest that it will want to have a referendum. How do you interpret France's reluctance to accede to what is apparently the demand of the assembly?
RT: Ah, I think the UPLD and Tahoeraa Huiraatira collectively believe that it's, first, a matter of separating the two cases, the two issues, between New Caledonia and French Polynesia. The French know that the timeframe for New Caledonia is starting next year and France does not want the French Polynesian issue to interfere with the New Caledonian issue. So this is probably one of the main reasons why silence is still kept on our case at the national level, at the French level. But the second reason is because the stakes are different. The socialist party is, of course, ruling the country in France, but they also have a problem with the Tahoeraa Huiraatira basically because the Tahoeraa Huiraatira is reflecting the right-side wing of the party and has supported Nicolas Sarkozy or the right side, whereas today the left side - the socialist party there - is ruling the country. So there is also something that is not really turning very good at the national level between Gaston Flosse and the French government.
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