SANG NAMES NEW FRENCH POLYNESIA CABINET - January 1,  2007

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SANG NAMES NEW FRENCH POLYNESIA CABINET

SUVA, Fiji (Oceania Flash, Dec. 31) - French Polynesia's newly-elected President, Gaston Tong Sang, yesterday announced his cabinet lineup, local media report.

Tong Sang's 15-member cabinet includes significant portfolios for three outer islands members of the local legislative assembly (Louis Frébault, Michel Yip and Temauri Foster) who had crossed the floor to oust former President Oscar Temaru in a motion of no confidence on December 13.

Temauri Foster, who claims to lead the group, has been made Vice-President, minister for municipalities' development.

Frébault is the new minister for public works, ports and airports.

Yip has taken charge of posts and telecommunications and black pearl farming industries.

All three also held ministerial portfolios under the ousted Temaru administration.

Tong Sang sad he had also offered portfolios to members of the "civil society".

Other political parties in the new government, which form the new "pro-autonomy" majority, are Émile Vernaudon's Ai'a Api (two ministers, Natacha Taurua -culture and crafts- and Clarentz Vernaudon -youth and sports-) and Jean-Christophe Bouissou Rautahi (two portfolios, Maina Sage -tourism and environment- and Moana Blanchard -land transport-).

Most of the other members of the cabinet belong to Tong Sang's party, the Tahoeraa Huiraatira, which has governed French Polynesia for most of the past twenty years.

Armelle Merceron, a former health minister under veteran politician Gaston Flosse's administration, is now in charge of the key finance and public service portfolio.

However, Tahoeraa Huiraatira secretary general Bruno Sandras stressed to French broadcaster RFO on Friday that Flosse, at no stage, took part in the new cabinet makeup discussions.

Flosse is believed to be currently out of French Polynesia.

After his Boxing Day election, Tong Sang on Friday paid his first official visit to French High Commissioner Anne Boquet, a clear signal that he intended to honour his pledge to normalised relations with the French government after months of tensions under the previous Temaru pro-independence administration.

Relations between Temaru's administration and the French central government has soured in past months, mainly due to the ousted President's claims to have French Polynesia follow a similar path to New Caledonia's decolonisation process.

Temaru had mentioned on several occasions a so-called "Tahiti Nui Accord" which, he said, would be a blueprint comparable to New Caledonia's Nouméa Accord and would set out guidelines for a gradual transfer of powers from France to local authorities.

Tong Sang, 57, of Chinese ethnic ascent, is the lord mayor of Bora Bora atoll.

Another cornerstone of the new President's credo is to restore confidence with local and foreign investors and kick-start the economy through a boost to local demand.

Tong Sang's Boxing Day election and the return of former ruling Tahoeraa Huiraatira was made possible after protracted talks with other minor components of the opposition, who had only agreed to vote for a Tahoeraa candidates if long-time ruler Gaston Flosse (who founded the party and was President for most of the past twenty years, until 2004) was not a candidate.

Tahoeraa Huiraatira is affiliated to France's ruling party UMP, whose head, current French Home Affairs minister Nicolas Sarkozy, is contesting the French Presidential elections, in May 2007.

Two weeks ago, Oscar Temaru was voted out as President of French Polynesia, 21 months after he was elected at the helm of a pro-independence coalition.

But the motion of no confidence was backed by a very narrow majority of members of the local legislative assembly, with 29 of the 57 votes.

Assembly Speaker Philip Schyle, in past weeks, has stressed the need for French Polynesia to fix a recurrent instability problem.

He had been advocating for a dissolution of the House and that fresh elections be called.

He also said that in order to put an end to ongoing instability and provide for a long-term fix to the problem, a reform of the electoral system was needed.

Tong Sang said earlier this week such a reform would be one of his government's priorities.

E-mail : pad@vanuatu.com.vu © Copyright PAD Limited, 1999-2006

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