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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, April 3) – While France's overseas minister was explaining the role between the state and the territory during his official visit, French Polynesia President Oscar Temaru was telling an agriculture forum on Taha'a about self-determination, economic autonomy and his newly proposed "Tahiti Accords".

[PIR editor’s note: Taha’a is an island northwest of Tahiti and southeast of Bora-Bora.]

Temaru also accused the government of his predecessor, Gaston Flosse, of using political patronage. Temaru said such practices should no longer exist.

The 48 communes spread out over French Polynesia's five archipelagoes must from now on consider their relationship with the territory in terms of a common and completely transparent economic concept, he said.

"Business should no longer be treated under the table, but above it," Temaru told a special meeting of the Taha'a Municipal Council during the Raromatai Agriculture Forum grouping all of the Leeward Islands.

Temaru also reaffirmed his wish to make Tahiti and Her Islands evolve towards a committed self-determination in a consensual manner. The comment comes from the leader of Tahiti's biggest independence political party who has locked horns recently with the French high commissioner in Tahiti over his declarations overseas and at home calling for Tahiti's independence from France.

French Overseas Minister François Baroin alluded to Temaru's independence comments on more than one occasion during his marathon visit of French Polynesia's five archipelagoes in four days. But he also told the Dominion Post newspaper in Wellington, New Zealand, that Temaru has no mandate to speak of independence, Radio New Zealand International reported on Sunday in Tahiti.

"The limits of freedom of democratic countries are exceeded when one uses one's position of responsibility to express a personal opinion instead of speaking on behalf of a community," Baroin told the newspaper, Radio New Zealand reported. "And he (Baroin) went on to say Mr. Temaru has no mandate to speak of independence, especially when he is overseas."

Baroin left Tahiti Monday morning for Wellington, New Zealand, to meet with ministers of Prime Minister Helen Clark's government.

On the Leeward Island of Taha'a Friday, Temaru brought up the electoral reform recently proposed by Tahiti's opposition political leaders for elections involving the 57 seats in the French Polynesia Assembly. He also pleaded the cause for his "Tahiti Accords", which he presented to Baroin last Thursday, the first day of the French minister's official visit.

Temaru's recent comments about independence prompted one elected official on Taha'a to ask Tahiti's president to provide some clarity on the political progress currently underway, noting that there has been talk of the people deciding within 10 or 15 years whether they want French Polynesia to become independent.

Temaru answered by saying, "It's not a question of feeling guilty, but having a sense of responsibility," adding that such an approach followed a historical logic.

For Temaru, the economic development of the land cannot occur in a healthy manner without simultaneously setting up a dialog between the French State and the territory. He was referring to the model used in creating the 1998 Nouméa Accord, which outlined a gradual transfer of power from Paris and an eventual vote on independence in the next decade in France's Pacific territory of New Caledonia.

Temaru claimed that the new statute governing French Polynesia's relationship with the French State in 2004 was not set up in a democratic way. He once again described the 2004 statute as "a piece of paper" and evoked the Tahiti Nui Accords.

Temaru said he was ready to travel throughout French Polynesia to inform the population of the need to set up an institutional framework which "gives responsibility and which doesn't reproach anyone".

Explaining why he has recently been using the term "Tahiti Nui" in the place of French Polynesia, particularly during overseas visits, Temaru said former President Flosse already used the same term.

Temaru added, "When we say Tahiti Nui in our Maohi Polynesian language it groups together all of the archipelagoes . . . just like when we say that France groups together all its territories, Corisca, etc."

April 5, 2006

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