TAHITI WORKERS BLOCK TEMARU

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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Mar. 11) – French Polynesia President Oscar Temaru and the new head of a presidential intervention group were refused entrance Friday to the group’s Papeete headquarters.

Members of the group known locally as the GIP stood behind closed gates in a protest over Temaru’s choice of new head of the GIP, Robert Maker, who has been reappointed to the post he held when Temaru was in power for four months last year.

The atmosphere was tense Friday morning in front of the GIP gates as Temaru tried to keep a previously announced appointment to meet GIP personnel with Maker.

Before leaving the area, Temaru told the news media that he saw "the hand of Gaston Flosse" behind the blockade. He was referring to former French Polynesia President Flosse, whose government created the GIP a few years ago to help with relief work following big storms.

Temaru accused Flosse of "a political wish to destabilize the government". Temaru added, "It’s not up to them to dictate the law".

Temaru’s staff said another attempt would be made on Monday to enter the GIP headquarters. Meanwhile, a court-appointed bailiff was summoned Friday to officially note the blockade.

The GIP is made up some 1,000 employees who maintain public facilities and perform other tasks both on Tahiti and in the outer islands at the request of the government president. They have their own cargo ship for transporting workers and materials to the outer islands for working on special projects, such as disaster relief following storms.

The protesting GIP employees refused to make any comment to the media. However, it is no secret that they are not pleased with the reappointment of Maker, who is close to Temaru.

Léonard Puputauki, former head of the GIP, and someone close to Flosse, said Maker "isn’t capable of running the GIP." Puputauki, currently on vacation in China where he was reached by Tahitipresse, added, "He’s not up to the job and furthermore he’s always spoken poorly about the GIP. That’s why the employees decided to not let him enter. It doesn’t concern the president, but only Robert Maker."

Puputauki said the situation had nothing to do with his having been relieved of his functions. The problem is the personnel do not want to work for "those who’ve spit on the GIP".

Maker, however, said he was unaware of what the employees had against him. He described the situation as "appalling".

Temaru has given Maker the job of reorganizing the GIP. Maker said that means changing its image. "We want to remove this image of the GIP, the image of a militia surrounding a camp and one person."

But he added, "I think that of the 1,000 employees, there’s only a small handful who are very close to Mr. Puputauki. The great majority only wants to work."

March 14, 2005

Tahitipresse: http://www.tahitipresse.pf/index.cfm?lang=2

 

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