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Pacific News Minute: 20 Years Later, The Case of a Missing Tahitian Journalist May Go To Trial

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

In Tahiti, lawyers for Gaston Flosse are trying to find a way to get the former president back into politics. After two corruption convictions, Flosse was barred from public office until 2019. But his lawyers argue that his sentences should run concurrently, which would allow him to stand in next year’s territorial election. If so, as Neal Conan reports in today’s Pacific News Minute, he may face new questions about a 20 year old case. 

In 1997, Gaston Flosse toppled French Polynesia’s first pro-independence government, set up the presidential election that would return him to power and, some say, arranged the murder of an investigative journalist and political enemy.

Jean Pascal Couraud, widely known from his by-line as JPK, dogged Flosse relentlessly. First as editor in chief of the Tahiti daily Les Nouvelles and later as an assistant to a member of the political opposition. When the 37 year-old vanished twenty years ago, authorities pointed to his troubled personal life and said they suspected suicide. Then, years later, one of Gaston Flosse’s former operatives told a magistrate that JPK had been drowned.

That’s Vetea Guilloux, once a member of an intelligence unit that kept track of Flosse’s mistresses and political rivals. He testified that JPK had been killed by two members of another Flosse outfit, an unarmed militia called the “Polynesian Intervention Group,” also known as the “Red Shirts.”

According to Guilloux, Red Shirts Tino Mara and Tutu Manate kidnapped JPK, tied concrete blocks to his feet and dumped him in the ocean.

Aside from members of JPK’s family, no one has said publicly that Gaston Flosse ordered the crime, but more may emerge if a case against Mara and Manate proceeds to trial.
In 2013, murder charges against them were dropped on a technicality, but both still face charges of kidnapping.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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