14 Jan 2004

French parliament debates new French Polynesian autonomy statute

11:44 am on 14 January 2004

The French National Assembly is discussing a new autonomy statute for French Polynesia - three weeks after the package was approved by the senate in Paris.

The proposed statute gives the territory increased powers but critics say it strengthens the presidency and avoids a referendum which is a standard procedure under French law.

A French MP, Jean Christophe Lagarde, has described the amendments as a scandalous electoral reform which will eliminate parties between the separatists and the ruling Tahoeraa Huiraatira Party.

Mr Lagarde has also spoken out against granting French Polynesia the power to open diplomatic posts in Pacific countries.

The Socialists say consultation in French Polynesia has been a mockery and the change only serves to strengthen the position of the current territorial president, Gaston Flosse.

The president of the territorial government, Gaston Flosse, who is in Paris, says those French Polynesian politicians who lobby against the change have betrayed their voters.

He says they fled from their responsibilities when they quit the assembly during the statute's debate last year.

The proposed constitutional changes were amended by the French government but not put back to a vote in the assembly in Tahiti.