Pacific News Minute: French Court Strips Pro-Independence Leader of His Seat in Tahiti’s Assembly
A court in France found irregularities in the finances of French Polynesia’s major pro-independence party and stripped its leader of his seat in the territorial assembly for a year. The party claims he’s been targeted because of his anti-nuclear activism.
Recent political history in French Polynesia has been dominated by three men.
Gaston Flosse, who’s been convicted several times on corruption. He was once found guilty of taking the presidential dinner dishes with him when he left office. His son-in-law and former protege Edouard Fritch, re-elected President last May despite a conviction for corruption. And Oscar Temaru, who’s served five separate terms as president and whose Tavini Huiraatira stood last spring, as the only party whose candidates had never been convicted.
Last week, the top administrative court in France ruled that campaign accounts did not properly explain 36,000 dollars in contributions, and stripped Temaru of his seat in the assembly for one year.
He protested his innocence, while a statement from the party said that Temaru was being punished because he’d accused France of crimes against humanity for its nuclear weapons tests in French Polynesia. The party statement also drew comparisons to an earlier figure in the territory’s political history – independence advocate Pouvanaa a Oopa.
In 1959, he was convicted for instigating violence as part of his anti-nuclear campaign. Earlier this month, that conviction was overturned when new evidence revealed that the police had fabricated evidence and that the French Governor had signed an arrest order charging him with burning down Papeete, before the fire started.
A memorial statue of Pouvanaa a Oopa stands in front of the territorial assembly building.