16 Mar 2006

French Polynesian president rejects French rebuke

10:11 am on 16 March 2006

The French Polynesian president, Oscar Temaru, has claimed his right to freedom of expression following last Sunday's rebuke by the French high commissioner in Papeete, Anne Boquet.

She said it was unacceptable for Mr Temaru to want to be known as the President of Tahiti Nui and to say he no longer knew what French Polynesia stood for.

Mr Temaru's office says when the previous administration flouted the principles of the French republic for years, neither the government in Paris nor in Tahiti found it unacceptable.

But it says if Mr Temaru affirms his views that the territory's future will be independence he is being criticised in the name of the republic's principles.

The office also quoted the French interior minister who said that at the end of the working day he can do how he pleases.

The war of words comes while there is no provision in law nor plan to hold an independence referendum although the opposition's Gaston Flosse has repeatedly said it may be time to put the issue to a vote.

Under Mr Flosse's rule, a French Polynesian television service was set up, called Tahiti Nui TV, and an order of Tahiti Nui was also established.