27 Oct 2006

Claims that deaths were narrowly avoided in French Polynesian riot police operation

9:18 am on 27 October 2006

The former leader of French Polynesia's dissolved GIP intervention force, Leonard Puputauki, says he believes that his presence during this week's riot police operation in Papeete prevented people being killed.

French riot police used teargas to dislodge the group that had seized the territorial assembly after an 11-day strike that involved illegal road blocks around the city.

Mr Puputauki told a local radio station that no provision was made to remove the old people who had been parked at the assembly before the police acted.

He is today leading a protest march of former GIP workers and striking unionists to demand the resignation of the French high commissioner, Anne Boquet.

She ordered the police action more than 12 hours after public buildings had been seized, saying by doing so the strikers had crossed a red line.