31 May 2013

Paris asked to hold French Polynesia independence referendum

4:09 pm on 31 May 2013

The French Polynesian assembly has adopted a resolution asking France to organise a referendum on the territory's self-determination.

The assembly vote came less than two weeks after the UN General Assembly re-inscribed French Polynesia on the UN decolonisation list.

Walter Zweifel has this report.

"TEVA ROHFRITSCH: Nous n'accepterons jamais de nous projeter dans une independance de misere..."

That is Teva Rohfritsch of the A Tia Porinetia Party in what has been a heated debate about the decolonisation issue, with repeated slurs suggesting lies were being told. In his address, he jumped to the defence of the status quo, saying the people will never accept independence that is misery. The so-called pro-autonomy politicians have portrayed the UN vote as a path to independence and insist that their victory in this month's territorial election is akin to a referendum that rejects any change of the political status. For the rival pro-independence camp, the UN decision has been misrepresented.

While questioning the value of the current autonomy, Antony Geros says the UN vote was never for independence.

ANTONY GEROS: ..la resolution ne voulait jamais dire que la Polynesie francaise serait independante.

Mr Geros says the UN resolution recognises the rights of the indigenous Maohi people. But Teva Rohfritsch contends that this month's election has clearly shown that people are against change.

TEVA ROHFRITSCH (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): There has well been, Mr Geros, a little resolution on 18th August 2011 in our little assembly with your little majority and have told a little lie that allowed to succeed at the UN.

Mr Geros says the autonomy amounts to little when Paris can annul local laws because they had been debated in Tahitian. Furthermore, he says the legacy of the French nuclear weapons tests has not been acknowledged as virtually all compensation claims are being thrown out. Mr Rohfritsch says the entire debate misses the point as people face material problems. He says everybody notices that hundreds of people lined up before dawn on Tuesday when the new government had its first open day.

TEVA ROHFRITSCH (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Do you really believe those who waited and pressed against the government's doors wanted to know what the UN can do for our families? No! Our families want a job, a roof and food for the children.

The push for a referendum is based on the hope that the independence issue will be buried once and for all. Another lobbying effort is directed at the UN, which is being asked to rescind its resolution, as Porinetia Ora's Nicole Bouteau explained.

NICOLE BOUTEAU (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We have to undo what has been done, and demand that the General Assembly of the United Nations recognises that French Polynesia remains an autonomous territory.

The ball is now in France's court. Although Paris has been incensed at the UN decision, which it says was a blatant interference, there has been no word when, or even whether, it will organise an independence referendum.