25 Mar 2005

French Polynesia's GIP rebellion continues

5:57 am on 25 March 2005

Members of French Polynesia's presidential intervention group, the GIP, have blocked access to part of the port of Papeete this morning in defiance of the president, Oscar Temaru.

The action follows Mr Temaru's televised address last night in which he vowed not to give into blackmail and to retain the GIP's new boss, Robert Maker.

A core group of the GIP has rejected Mr Maker's appointment to remain loyal to Leonard Puputauki who, Mr Temaru says, remains sacked pending legal action.

Mr Temaru requested television time hours after being sent a letter by a GIP leader threatening the force's withdrawal of labour in some of its functions.

Mr Temaru has now again appealed to the GIP to serve his government while announcing that its duties will be re-defined.

The GIP was set up as a disaster assistance team in the 1990's but has also included an intelligence unit which has been implicated in the disappearance of a journalist more than seven years ago.

Reports say police have recently been advised that Mr Puputauki allegedly threatened to shoot Mr Maker, should he try to take over the GIP.

Last year, the Human Rights League called on France to dissolve the GIP, saying it was unworthy of a constitutional state to tolerate a militia.

But to date there has been no action from the French authorities which retain police powers in Tahiti.