20 Oct 2004

French Polynesian power struggle in court as Gaston Flosse proposes independence vote

8:47 pm on 20 October 2004

The ousted French Polynesian president, Oscar Temaru, has lodged a case on three counts in a Papeete court in a bid to retain power.

He is demanding the suspension and cancellation of the motion of no confidence, which a majority of MPs approved ten days ago.

Mr Temaru says the motion put to the vote was signed by only six MPs when twelve should have signed it, making it therefore invalid.

He also says there was an attempt to influence the vote when the opposition's Gaston Flosse claimed he was to assassinated by a man carrying a knife who was overpowered by guards on the assembly floor.

The third points refers to the French high commissioner advising the assembly speaker in writing during the debate of the motion that he had to close the sitting before the end of the day.

Mr Temaru's move coincides with the local court deferring a decision by 24 hours on a complaint by the assembly president that his third vice president and the French high commissioner had no right to call this week's assembly meeting for fresh presidential elections.

The meeting could not proceed to a vote because there was no quorum.

Meanwhile, judicial sources in France have disclosed that Mr Flosse has been under investigation since last October for alleged abuse of public funds.

In an immediate reaction, Mr Flosse has confirmed that his office was paying about 100 people who worked neither for his office nor his party.

The sources, quoted in the French press, say church leaders, unionists, journalists and several former Miss Tahiti and others were being paid 4'000 US dollars a month without doing any work.

The French government says there has been a rigorous check on the transfers of public funds to French Polynesia.

Mr Flosse is seeking a return to power but says instead of fresh general elections a referendum on independence from France should be held.

He also says he will probably be re-elected by the assembly when it meets next in just under three days.