TEMARU DISSOLVES CONTROVERSIAL ‘GIP’ UNIT IN TAHITI

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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Jan. 11) – "The GIP no longer has an official existence," French Polynesia President Oscar Temaru announced Wednesday after his Council of Ministers dissolved the controversial intervention group.

No one was fired. Instead the 956 employees of the GIP [Groupement d'Intervention de La Polynesia] created in the 1990s by former President Gaston Flosse were temporarily transferred to the Public Works Ministry, Temaru announced.

"We were patient all year in 2005. We've tallied up the results. We can't let this situation continue," Temaru told the news media.

Yannick Boosie, the temporary head of the GIP until the Temaru government's action Wednesday, could not be reached for comment.

Léonard Puputauki, the former head of the GIP, told the French State RFO [Radio France Outremer] Radio Polynésie Wednesday that he was against the Temaru government's dissolution move. He indicated a planned strike notice by the GIP would be filed soon. However, he was reportedly in Chile and not due to return to Tahiti until Sunday night.

The Temaru government wasted no time making its unanimous decision official Wednesday. The decision to dissolve the GIP was to be published the same day in a special edition of the French Polynesia Journal Officiel, Temaru said.

Public Works Minister James Salmon and the head of the Public Works Department were temporarily put in charge of financially managing the GIP.

The government also announced that the roles of the GIP employees would be completely redefined. Some of the employees will be transferred to other government departments, following last year's government-ordered study of the intervention group.

It was already planned that some of the GIP employees would be transferred to the government's welcome and security force. The government fleet of ships now operated by the GIP will be transferred to the Public Works Ministry.

A division of employees operating on land will be kept in tact, probably coming under the responsibility of the Public Works Ministry.

No names were mentioned for who might eventually end up running the various new entities carved out of the old GIP.

"The running of the GIP could end up being handled by someone outside the GIP, but the management of the cells will be handled by members of the (intervention) group," said Public Works Minister Salmon.

For Temaru, the dissolution means, "there's no more GIP. In the event of a blockade of the port by a few dozen persons, we could take legal actions."

The GIP has been a controversial thorn in Temaru's side since he returned to power last March. The future of the GIP has been debated, provoking several blockades of the Port of Papeete, cutting off the area to all motor vehicle access. That has not only affected inter-island and international ship loading and unloading operations and warehouse access but also access to most of the fuel storage tanks for gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel.

Each time the Temaru government has mentioned a possible new leader for the GIP, a portion of the employees, sometimes numbering as many as 300, have been led by Puputauki in opposing the nomination by forming a blockade.

January 13, 2006

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

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