22 August 2011

French Polynesia Assembly adopts decolonization resolution; calls for re-listing by United Nations


Editor's Note: Whilst the relevant United Nations committees are focused on ways and means to de-list the remaining dependencies from the United Nations List of Non Self-Governing Territories (NSGTs) - even as they have not yet achieved full self-government - a number of non-independent countries in the Caribbean, Pacific, Africa and Asia have been calling on the world body to re-list these countries in order that the nature of their prevailing political status arrangements might be re-assessed by the world body. Puerto Rico, Canaries and West Papua are several examples.

Many of these 'former' dependencies were removed from the U.N. list through formal resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly as far back as the middle 1950's. Others were de-listed without benefit of resolutions - such as French Polynesia. The decisions to de-list were based primarily on the assurances of the cosmopolitan power that the territories had achieved a sufficient level of self-government - a determination which may not have been shared by the people of the territories at the time, nor consistent with the objective reality.

Such decisions were made well before the parametres of full self-government had been fully  formulated by the United Nations through instruments such as the Decolonisation Declaration and other relevant resolutions further refining the international requirements for democratic governance, and most recent human rights conventions affirming the right to self-determination. 

Since the United Nations has no formal procedure to revisit the earlier decisions to de-list territories, efforts have been undertaken in some countries to garner international support for their re-listing by the United Nations. A major step has been taken to this effect by the French Polynesia Assembly which has adopted a formal resolution calling on the French Government to support the re-listing of the territory. The response by the international community - especially the Pacific region - will be instructive given the initial French response to the French Polynesia initiative. 

Ironically, the ongoing process of self-determination in New Caledonia via the Noumea Accord - with  its difficulties and complexities - can serve as a model for adaptation to the French Polynesian political reality. This could serve as a progressive approach to advance democratic governance in the Pacific region.


The French Polynesian Assembly has approved, Thursday, a resolution asking French President Nicolas Sarkozy to reinscribe French Polynesia on the UN decolonization list. A majority of 30 Assembly members voted for the resolution, while 26 voted against it.The majority is mostly made of Oscar Temaru's pro-independence Tavini huiraatira party with also some Assembly members from the Outer Islands.

The resolution is now to be presented to the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in September, in Auckland, New Zealand. French Polynesia president Oscar Temaru also plans to send the resolution to the United Nations, in New York.

Pro-autonomy parties voted against the resolution after a heated debate. One of the leading opposition politician Senator Gaston Flosse said the way the vote took place was unfair. Flosse claimed France will anyway lobby against this resolution.

French Foreign Affairs minister Alain Juppé will attend the Pacific Islands Forum meeting, Flosse told Assembly members.

Read the text of the resolution  here. (French)

Tahitipresse interview with Oscar Temaru, President of French Polynesia 


Tahitipresse: Are not you the impression that it was adopted in a hurry while the debates were rather long and relatively quiet, and all of a sudden it rushed and it was adopted a little in the frenzy of the moment, no?

Temaru: I think the President of the Assembly had set a time for that folder which is three hours, and I think it is 1:15 p.m. ET we're well over since we started around 10am. So everyone could express themselves, all groups had their voice, but I could not refuse that we continue to discuss this issue, it's so exciting!

Tahitipresse: But in fact, it was an extremely important debate, and we just felt that it was adopted as it is ... very surprising ...

Temaru: This is not the first time we talked about in this forum. It's been 33 years since we talked about! We know very well what happened in New Caledonia and there, it seems that we are dealing with blind.

Tahitipresse: You have recovered the voice of Heifara Izal, it's one more vote for the UPLD?

Temaru: I think that this is not a new decision. In 2004, when we met to create the UPLD, with Emile Vernaudon (Heifara Izal companion, Ed), signed the resolution prepared by all groups who were there for the reinstatement of our country on the list of countries decolonization. So it's not a new position and I thank him.

Tahitipresse: How do you respond to questions from Flosse that says:''Why seek autonomy, already. This is the path to independence ...''

Temaru: Yes, that is. I hope that you have chosen the words of Mr. Flosse:''We are an autonomous country!''Between an autonomous country as he puts it, community and state ... there is a gap! Because the reality is what? This is written in this organic law, statutory law in this! We are a community of like all the common state of our country. This is the reality. Maybe a few times it will still say:''I have lied.'' No. He can read!

Tahitipresse: Why not ask for a referendum on the opposition. He also made the proposal ...

Temaru: Yes, this proposal was made. And I said, in Tahitian language course, we must think about it. But it will freeze the list. Currently, those who landed here after three months, have the right to vote. We say no, it's not normal. We can not let everyone participate in this vote, it is not possible! It is an innate and inalienable right which belongs to the people Maohi and we say, perhaps we must accept it from those who have at least ten years of residence in this country. Why not? But it is discussed if we want to be in line with international standards.

Tahitipresse: For you, what are the consequences of this vote? Because such Tahoeraa said it was a stab in the water, others spoke of''serious consequences''. What is the purpose of this resolution for you?

Temaru: I am not a magician! I have to go to Samoa. I am invited by the conference of all the Churches of the Pacific and before leaving, we took care to consult all religious denominations in our country, at least the most important.

Tahitipresse: To talk about this issue?

Temaru: To address this issue. To inform them, tell them I am invited and here is what we'll talk. Because I'm sure as Samoa, the Pacific Conference of Churches, so all the churches, we will ask that question! I also know that there are some representatives from our church to participate in this conference. And I must remind you that all churches have representation in New York at the UN. That's it. And I said in Tahitian, we have a hard time to promote our country. Every year we spend over a billion Fcfp. Imagine the day when the question of our country will be discussed in the National Assembly of the United Nations! They are millions and billions of people who will finally see Tahiti Nui on the screen! We'll talk about our country, the future of our country, and the desire of the people to regain sovereignty maohi. What is wrong with that?

Tahitipresse: What's next now? You ask Nicolas Sarkozy to help Polynesia in the resolution to re-register on this list ...

Temaru: That the French government does not interfere with the democratic will, because the vote is past. There was a majority vote for the first time in the history of our country! So if France is a democratic state, the president should support us in this direction.

Tahitipresse: If it does not?

Temaru : Well that, we'll see what that member countries, first Pacific Forum, will decide, because it is not granted. It's been 33 years that I am fighting for it and if there is a favorable resolution in this direction then we will go to New York to meet with all member countries (UN). That, too, it is not easy because France is a country influence within the United Nations.

Tahitipresse: What do you say to Gaston Tong Sang who cares whether countries such as Iran, Syria ... who are not models of democracy, which decide the fate of Polynesia?

Temaru: I am just saying that we must stop this policy of intimidation. We have successfully re-registration of New Caledonia in 1986. In 1988, we had the Matignon Accords, and it is thanks to the reinstatement of that country on the list of decolonizing countries, and France agreed to work together. Does he have to go through the bloodshed for us to be heard? It is not normal! I am a democrat. I respect all opinions.