Help take the “French” out of “French Polynesia”



It’s amazing how little attention our media pays to important events in French Polynesia considering it is likely our first settlers came from there around 800 years ago. Also, we would probably not be a nuclear-free nation if it hadn’t been for the head of steam the peace movement built up protesting the French tests at Mururoa and Fangataufa atolls from 1966 on.

France was determined to hang on to its Polynesian colony so that it could conduct these tests. But a strong Polynesian independence movement developed to counter this. For many years this movement has been led by Oscar Temaru, whose Union for Democracy has substantial support. Mr Temaru has been President of the Territory on and off since 2004 and during his latest term, which ended last month, he campaigned for French Polynesia to be reinstated on the UN list of decolonizing countries. The French had succeeded in having it taken off the list back in 1947.

Shamefully, New Zealand has opposed all efforts to have French Polynesia reinstated on the UN list – and it stopped Mr Temaru putting the matter on the agenda of the Pacific Island Forum when the PIF met in Auckland in September 2011. But this didn’t stop other PIF members later taking up the challenge and last month the UN General Assembly put French Polynesia back on the UN list, over the objections of France and the United States. The General Assembly motion was sponsored by the Solomons, Nauru, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Samoa and Timor Leste – but not New Zealand.

A French colony in Polynesia is an anachronism in 21st century, and surely New Zealand should support a considered process of self-determination.

What is now happening between the French government and French Polynesia has a funny twist to it. A long-time pro-French politician, Gaston Flosse, has taken over from Oscar Temaru as President and is pushing for a rushed referendum on independence, hoping that people will be panicked into opposing independence for fear that France might cut financial support. It appears that the French government may veto such a vote – proving once again that the real power lies in Paris not Pape’ete.


  1. As much as I have been thinking favourably towards seeing an independent Polynesia established through self-determination, I am also worried that it would be a kind of state, too large, too under-resourced, too economically weak, to survive on its own.

    It would likely end up as an easy target for any large economic and strategic power, to get a hold of, to exploit and manipulate. Mainland China would be at the doorstep, offering cheap loans for something in return.

    It seems the corrupt Gaston Flosse is a kind of puppy of the French government, which appears to prefer hanging onto French Polynesia in some ways.

    But what would the alternative be? Temaru and his party have been controversial and not strong enough to form a stable government, it is a rather messy situation there.

    Now Flosse is playing dirty tactics, to do all to somehow hang onto power. But is there not still some court proceeding pending in Paris, which could throw him out of office again?

    New Zealand media pays little attention on what happens in Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia. Only if something goes wrong in Fiji, or if a tornado does cause havoc, do we hear something about the small island states.

    And who knows about human rights breaches in West Papua? You have to look and find info on the web, or via alternative or foreign media, to learn a bit about the human rights breaches under Indonesian rule there.

    Instead we learn about the Kardashians and Kate Middleton’s baby bumps. NZ media – hopeless!

  2. First we need to deal with welfare dependency at both the macro level of foreign aid to Pasifikan govts and at the micro level of an expected safety net that dole handouts are.

    Then maybe Pasifikan can look at itself as a viable entity capable of self sufficiency.

    I can envision a United States of Pasifika with a single currency, free trade and no visas.

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