3 Nov 2008

French Polynesian assembly to vote on Flosse repaying funds

5:50 am on 3 November 2008

The French Polynesian assembly will vote the day after tomorrow on whether the veteran politician Gaston Flosse and some of his associates should repay more than three million US dollars in public funds.

The French accounts office says the money was misspent between 1996 and 2004 under a system devised to deceive.

The vote was deferred late last week amid a small demonstration in

Papeete, with the protest leader saying that if the vote goes in Mr

Flosse's favour, the assembly is no longer the people's house

but instead a laundry.

Mr Flosse has justified the expenses in question as being for the public good, claiming that he is the victim of a plot by the French state and the French judiciary.

Before adjourning for the weekend, the assembly discussed last month's visit by French Polynesian leaders to New Caledonia.

The opposition says it was an unproductive trip as New Caledonia unions are hostile to the idea of opening the labour market to workers from French Polynesia which is suffering from an economic slump.

But the economics minister, Guy Lejeune, says the visit allowed to renew ties and allowed the delegation to catch up with the 6,000-strong French Polynesian community in New Caledonia, which he says feels abandoned by Tahiti.