23 Jun 2005

Tension remains in Wallis as rival councils claim authority

5:18 pm on 23 June 2005

The stand-off between rival groups in Wallis has led to the unprecedented creation of two rival chiefly councils.

The French administration says the new council, which is opposed to the king, Tomasi Kulimoetoke, has named six ministers and three district chiefs but no king.

The clans making up the new council have been unsuccessful in dislodging the 86-year-old king whose backers maintain the original traditional leadership.

The French government has stopped paying allowances to the king's administration amid a wrangle over the king harbouring his grandson who was convicted to a jail term for causing a fatal car accident while being drunk.

The grandson surrendered to police and is now in jail in New Caledonia.

But the stand-off between the clans continued and last week clashes involving hundreds of people left one person was seriously injured.

The French administrator says the situation is difficult for him because both camps want to be recognised.

The newly formed council of royal families in French Polynesia has come out in favour of the king of Wallis, saying France has to respect custom.

A spokesman says if there is no recognition of the customary people, land problems cannot be resolved.