2 Nov 2004

French Polynesian government to return island to rightful owners

11:12 am on 2 November 2004

The French Polynesian lands minister, Luc Faatau, has met representatives of forty families who are among some 5,000 people claiming ownership of the government-owned atoll of Tupai near Bora Bora.

The government of Gaston Flosse was the latest of buyers when it acquired the atoll in the late 1990's and built on it an airport and a private retreat for the president.

The claimants from several islands have formed a group, called Faahoi Ia Tupai, and now want what they call a political solution.

The group is led by the brother of Noa Tetuanui, who was the MP to side with the Flosse-led group in the assembly last month to bring down the Oscar Temaru-led government.

The minister, says the government agrees on the principle of returning the island, adding that the case of Tupai could be the basis on which land problems can be solved.

He says the longer you wait, the more difficult it is to settle land issues.