30 Mar 2006

Rift in French Polynesia party over decolonisation stance

1:50 pm on 30 March 2006

Reports from French Polynesia say a rift has emerged in the ruling coalition over a petition to seek the territory's re-inscription on the UN decolonisation list.

Media reports say a member of the Aia Api Party, Catherine Buillard, has left the party, accusing its leader, Emile Vernaudon, of blackmailing the Union For Democracy led by the President, Oscar Temaru.

Mrs Buillard is quoted as saying she is in favour of the pro-independence stance, adding that Mr Vernaudon also signed the petition to that effect but now pushes a pro-autonomy line.

Mr Vernaudon controls a faction whose support is vital for the government to retain a majority ahead of next month's election of a new assembly president.

Mr Vernaudon has kept his ministerial portfolio despite being convicted to a suspended jail sentence for corruption this year.

Mrs Buillard is reported as saying that she will be standing as a candidate against Mr Vernaudon in the next mayoral race in Mahina.