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PAPEÉTE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Jan. 3) - A committee representing 43 families seeking to reclaim land on the Leeward Islands atoll of Tupai has signed a draft agreement with the French Polynesia government two days before the end of 2004.

The signing cleared the first hurdle in the families’ 20-year battle to reclaim what they say was originally their land on the atoll, which is located 16 kilometers (9.9 miles) from Bora Bora.

Tupai, however, is private territorial land belonging to the French Polynesia government. Part of the land has been developed in recent years as a vacation resort.

"The government has committed itself to returning the Tupai land to its owners," said Didier Taruoura, official spokesman for the committee of families.

Each proclaimed landowner must only prove his/her title deed and his/her genealogy, he said. The committee has the task of compiling a dossier for each proclaimed landowner and, working with the government, managing the land restitution.

"The association will return the parcels (of land) to the people who represent their family, Taruoura said. "And it’s up to them who own the land to divide it up with the various members (of the family). In practice, things could thus become complicated because of the importance of extended families in (French) Polynesia," he said.

As a result, he said he plans to create an investment company for Tupai.

Another potential complication in the land restitution could involve other people who claim ownership but are not part of the committee of 43 families.

However, for the 43 families, the signing of a draft agreement with the government was completely satisfactory after the 20 years they have fought to reclaim their ownership.

January 4, 2005

Tahitipresse: www.tahitipresse.pf

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