2 Oct 2013

Amid controversy, French Polynesia gets High Council

5:56 pm on 2 October 2013

French Polynesia has added a new institution to an already large public sector.

Amid controversy over its formation, a Frenchman has been hired to head a new so-called High Council to vet local laws.

"Walter Zweifel spoke to the publisher of the Tahiti-Pacifique monthly, Alex du Prel."

ALEX DU PREL: It's another step on the bureaucratic machine. That means we have our local assembly, territorial assembly, which makes so-called 'loi du pays' - that means 'laws of the country'. And they can be, if they are not constitutional or they have legality problems, any citizen can go to the Conseil d'Etat, which is kind of the supreme court in France, and ask that this law be obliged. So they had put up an 'Haut Conseil' which is a high council that is watching the legality of the locally made laws. It's a very expensive affair. Generally it's a big friend of the president in power who gets the nice, cushy job, big salary, secretaries. Also it's a way to hire local lawyers who debate all day long about the comma or not, so the French assembly said 'This is a bloody waste of money', because in one way or other France is paying the bill, so they abolished it. And despite that Mr Flosse put it back and here we have another lot of these nitty-gritty lawyers and consultants and everything analysing this stuff.

WALTER ZWEIFEL: How big is the problem with the legality of the local laws complying with whatever constitution or the system?

ADP: Well, it's very complicated, because you have the French laws and the French laws are not very clear. You know, in France the law says 'yes, but' and there's always a 'yes, but'. Then on top of that you have to put to the European laws. And now we added another layer - the local laws - so it's become a tangle, a mess. And also it's a national sport over here by opposition parties or not to introduce legal action against almost everything.

WZ: How significant will this role of this council be? How many decisions does it have to make?

ADP: Every time they make what they call a 'loi du pays', every time one of these is voted, before it goes to the vote at the local assembly, they have to verify it and see if it's in phase with the French constitution, in phase with national French laws, in phase with European laws and so on and so on. Become a lawyer in French Polynesia and you'll never be out of work.