16 May 2005

France wants to remove king of Wallis for defying court

2:28 pm on 16 May 2005

The French administration of Wallis and Futuna has initiated procedures to remove the king of Wallis, Le Lavelua Tomasi Kulimoetoke.

This comes after some of the island's traditional leaders asked the French authorities to leave Wallis amid a dispute between the royal family and the judiciary.

The French administrator, Xavier de Furst, says the chiefs have refused to carry out court decisions, which include a 18-month jail sentence of the king's grandson for involuntary homicide.

According to the news agency, AFP, the grandson caused a fatal accident while driving drunk in January but he is now in hiding inside the royal palace.

Mr de Furst has told the customary chiefs that they are not above the law.

The stand-off has intensified over the weekend and Mr de Furst says he has the backing of most royal families to remove the king who has been in power since 1959.

The king, Le Lavelua Tomasi Kulimoetoke, signed an accord with France in 1961, making the former protectorate a French overseas territory.

France also recognises two kings on Futuna island.