24 June 2013

Decolonization plan for French Polynesia explained at U.N.

Statement by Hon. Richard, Ariihau TUHEIAVA 

"Question of French Polynesia" 

Special Committee on Decolonization 

United Nations 

21st June 2013

            Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Members of the Special Committee, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

            On behalf of the Group "Union for Democracy" (UPLD) of French Polynesia, I thank you for this opportunity to address the full Special Committee on Decolonization of the United Nations for the first time since the consensus adoption on 17th May 2013 by the General Assembly of resolution  67/265 re-inscribing French Polynesia on the U.N. List of Non Self-Governing Territories culminating some 35 years of intense efforts started by the Honorable Oscar Temaru, Leader of our sovereignty Party, to achieve this goal.

         We wish to thank all relevant member States for the support provided for the re-inscription of French Polynesia, and express our deep appreciation to the Non-Aligned Movement for its expressed support in its Heads of Government´s 2012 final communiqué, and to the members of the Pacific Small Islands Developping States (PSIDS) Group for their sustained effort in bringing about this positive outcome.

            This resumed international oversight of the self-determination process of French Polynesia has come after the unilateral de-listing in 1947, without a General Assembly resolution, of both New Caledonia and French Polynesia. The General Assembly corrected the omission of New Caledonia from the UN list in 1986 with its adoption of resolution 41/41 of that year.

       It is only by way of resolution 67/265 dated 17 May 2013 that similar correction has now been made for French Polynesia. 

   Mr. Chairman,

            In our statement to this year's Regional Seminar in Quito, we made the point that the genuine act of self-determination for the Maohi people of French Polynesia is consistent not only with the U.N. Charter but also with relevant international instruments, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples among others.

       Accordingly, the operationalization of the resolutions of the General Assembly which call for links to be established between the Special Committee on Decolonization and the various human rights U.N. bodies would be most useful. The recent recommendation of the report on Decolonization in the Pacific, presented to the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) last month, to convene an expert group meeting on decolonization in conjunction with the Special Committee is most useful, and is consistent with earlier calls by the General Assembly for special mechanisms in the decolonization process such as a Special Rapporteur to advance implementation of the mandate.

            Mr. Chairman,

       The Noumea Accord which governs the self-determination process of New Caledonia, formally recognizes the rights of the Kanak people in determining the political future of the territory through realistic voter eligibility criteria for participation in the process. It basically means that not all the current inhabitants of New Caledonia are qualified to vote in the upcoming self determination referendum in New Caledonia planned between 2014 or 2018.

       Thus, a minimum established residency period of 20 years in New Caledonia was approved by both French Government and Parliament in 1999. In this regard, the European Court of Human Rights has confirmed the legality of this eligibility criteria in "Mr. Py vs. France" court case in January 2005.

        In this connection, Mr. Chairman, we wish to emphasize four relevant points :

       First: If the process is to proceed to a genuine act of self-determination exercised by the Ma'ohi people of French Polynesia, then a similar eligibility criteria must be also employed in French Polynesia as has been in the case in New Caledonia. It is essential that relevant act of self-determination in French Polynesia not be unduly influenced by the participation of recent settlers whose right to self-determination had long been exercised in Europe.

      Therefore, such eligibility criteria in French Polynesia is critical for the achievement of a fair, equitable and genuine self determination process to be realized, and is supported by the General Assembly Plan of Action of the full implementation of the Decolonization Declaration as contained in Resolution 35/118 of 1980
       At the time being, we must advise this Committee that the electoral system in French Polynesia is under the full control of the Administrative power that holds its electoral code voted by the French Parliament in Paris. In this regard, and by virtue of articles LO 227-1, LO 227-2 and LO 11 of the French electoral code. :

 any French citizen is qualified to vote, and even to run for each local elections, in French Polynesia upon arrival in this territory and formal registration on our electoral List ;

any European Union citizen officially living in France, including in French Polynesia, is qualified to vote in this territory, upon simple registration, after 6 months of residency;

From a strict legal perspective, these rules apply to all elections

in French Polynesia, with no distinction. In the case of a self-determination referendum in our territory, such French legislation is totally inconsistent with UNGA Resolution 35/118 of 1980.

       Second, The French Constitution which is unilaterally applied to our territory, as one 'French Overseas Collectivity' under the French official terminology, has effectively downgraded our status as 'Peoples.' Accordingly, the revision of the French Constitution adopted 28 March 2003 changed that designation from 'Peoples' to 'Populations' with no consultation of the indigenous Peoples of all French Overseas territories.

       Hence, such furtive constitutional change has rationalized the inclusion of settlers in our self-determination process - which is inconsistent with same Resolution 35/1118.

       Third, we wish to point out that the mandate of the U.N. General Assembly on the decolonization of French Polynesia can only be achieved through the development of an authentic political education programme on the legitimate options of political equality with direct support of the United Nations in all stages of the process. The U.N. role in political education has been consistently supported by General Assembly resolutions, and U.N. support has been evident in referenda processes, most recently in Tokelau, in Timor Leste, and even in the former Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

     Indeed, a self-determination process with sufficient time and relevant education programme for the people to understand the implications of each legitimate political status option  is essential to the process, before a  self determination referendum is held.

        Thus, any attempt to expedite a self-determination referendum process with the intention of whether overpromoting one political option or decredibilizing another one, is clearly inconsistent with the relevant General Assembly resolutions.

       Four, we wish to mention that the only provision of the French Constitution that covers the issue of the self-determination referendum, in its Article 53 paragraph 3, remains vague and subject to unilateral authority from the Administrative Power. Indeed, there is a lack of clear process and operational guidelines as to :

      * Who is qualified to initiate or request a self-determination                                                               referendum ? Under which legal criteria ?

         * What authority is entitled to draft the question ?

    *What authority is approving the terms of reference and guidelines of the elections ?

         *What authority is monitoring and coordinating the elections ?

         * What is the official timeframe ?

       * What authority is entitled to approve, and subsequently, to implement the referendum results ?

       * What authority is requesting for the revision of the French Constitution ?

          * Etc.

       Clearly, the current language of the French Constitution is not providing for sufficient guarantees that a fair, equitable and informed process of self-determination is offered to the Maohi People of French Polynesia.

Mr. Chairman,

              We emphasized these four points in the context of the recent advocacy by the recently elected territorial authorities that the French expedite the organization of a referendum in our territory on 'independence, yes or no ?', without regard for proper voter eligibility criteria, and aimed at retaining the present colonial arrangements by default.

     We reiterate that this is an unacceptably distorted process, and is radically inconsistent with the established and internationally recognized precedents for the self-determination of New Caledonia.
Such recognized precedents include :

1. the conduct of a genuine political education program with direct U.N. support;

2. the setting of a reasonable eligibility criteria to vote in the self-determination referendum.
3. the achievement of selected legal, economical and social measures locally and prior to the referendum.

            A major point to be understood at this juncture is that the issue of the colonial nature of the status quo was the reason that the General Assembly agreed to re-inscribe the territory in the first instance (17 May 2013). This provides the international community the opportunity to examine  comprehensively the power relationship between the territory and the administering power. 

       Independent assessments which will be made available soon to the U.N. in due course will confirm that French Polynesia has, in fact, not achieved a full measure of self-government. In this regard, a number of selected measures are necessary before a self-determination referendum would take place in French Polynesia.

       The following ones are not exhaustive :

*  the creation and implementation of a Polynesian citizenship, in parallel with the setting of a reasonable eligibility criteria to vote a self-determination referendum,

the reform of the electoral system which resulted in the last election finding a disproportionate distribution of seats in the territorial Assembly.

a United Nations assessment of the health and environmental consequences of the French nuclear testings in French Polynesia, and fair, effective and equitable compensation system to the victims,

the devolution of power from the French to include the legal competency to own, control and dispose of natural resources, including marine resources, in particular, deep-sea or terrestrial strategic minerals within our Economic Exclusive Zone, consistent with General Assembly resolutions.

*  the adoption of new territorial Law in French Polynesia to ensure priority to the locals in the labour force.

*   the revision of the present land tenure system.  

*  the devolution of power from the French  for control of immigration.

*  the full legal recognition of the Tahitian language as an official language.

the necessary revision of the current code of communes/municipalities of French Polynesia with due respect to the geographical, demographical and financial constraints.

* the full-recognition of the legally-binding status of the laws voted by the Assembly of French Polynesia.

Mr. Chairman,

            Before concluding, I wish to point to the nature of the so-called autonomous status of French Polynesia.  In the absence of U.N. oversight of our political and economic evolution for over 66 years, a particular type of unilateral authority by the administering power emerged through changes in the French Constitution. and the application of these provisions through various French autonomy statutes all of which retained the reins of power in Paris.

            What was and is termed as autonomy, is in fact nothing more than non self-governing territorial status by another name. This is political subterfuge of the first order, and needs to be the focus of attention by this committee as it reviews the prevailing political arrangements. A few examples are illustrative:

Whereas the provision of Article 73 of the U.N. Charter asserts the priority of the interests of the people of the self-governing territories, beyond those of their administering powers, the current provision of article 74 of the French Constitution under which French Polynesia was unilaterally placed shows that the interests of the people are subordinated to the particular interest of the French Republic. Therefore, the unilateral authority of the administering power still exists and is subject to continuous political manipulation.

*  Whereas the transfer of competencies by the administrating powers the territory should be irreversible - as in the case of New Caledonia -  this is not the case in French Polynesia where powers and competencies are only delegated by the French to the territory through an Organic Law of the French Parliament in Paris. Therefore, such competencies can be extended, and just as easily taken away, with the final determination remaining in the hands of the French Parliament irrespective of the views of the people of the territory.

   The judicial system in the territory remains in full control of the administering power, including the designation and turn-over of judges. The elected members of the institutions of French Polynesia have no say nor control on the Judicial system in the territory.

 The electoral system applicable to French Polynesia is fully determined, adopted, controlled and implemented by the administering power. There is absolutely no power of the members of the House of Assembly of French Polynesia, nor the Mayors and Council members of the 48 communes of French Polynesia, to amend or correct the electoral rules.

*    The control and ruling of external immigration - entering and exiting French Polynesia remains fully in the hands of the administering power.

*   The determination of the local currency, which is different from the EU currency, is not controlled by the local elected government of French Polynesia. (The current currency is still named C.F.P., for French Colony in the Pacific).

       Mr. Chairman,

    A recently-completed  independent assessment of self governance of French Polynesia  has concluded that the so-called autonomous status of this territory, under the French Constitution, is not in compliance with the U.N. self governance indicators that are reflected in numerous General Assembly resolutions.

       These democratic deficits in the political arrangement of French Polynesia are the basis for United Nations review of the non self-governing territory of French Polynesia, and recommendations for facilitating a genuine, fair and equitable process of self-determination for our people.

       Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I am available to answer any questions you and your colleagues may wish to pose.

Te Aroha ia rahi (Greetings).

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