7 Jun 2004

Claim and counter claim over the alleged destruction of government records in French Polynesia

3:30 pm on 7 June 2004

Witnesses are reporting that workers for the outgoing leader of French Polynesia are burning up secret presidential files.

Gaston Flosse has also ordered security forces to scuttle a ship, which his opponents suspected, had government documents on board.

A spokeswoman for the opposition leader, and likely new president, says office workers have told her they'd been ordered to burn documents.

Tea Hirshon says Mr Flosse doesn't want some records to be seen by the public eye.

"Actually last night, on a piece of land next to the palace, all night, they burnt things - they burnt papers, and things like that. The problem is Mr Flosse is still president, so we cannot actually go in there and stop it - legally we don't have any right to do it."

Tea Hirshon, says the opposition is trying to get the French High Commission to halt the bonfires.

But Yves Haupert, a spokesman for Mr Flosse denies the files have been burnt.

This is completely false, and if you ask any journalist in Tahiti, you will have the truth, there is no burn, and no paper was burnt, outside the President's, and outside the ministers'.

Yves Haupert says SOME of the documents of the president's office will be kept, as everywhere else in the world.

Mr Haupert says Gaston Flosse will retain his private documents for his and his party's use.

Mr Flosse narrowly lost territorial elections last month.